Enough Is More

by Jin, 06-24-09 // 11 comments

I’m not one who likes to over analyze mantras, or argue about dogmas when it comes to design rules. To me, rules are there to serve as a guide, not a constraint. As a fan of minimalism and simplicity, one rule I DO follow very closely is “less is more.”

Last week I stumbled upon an essay titled Ten Things I Have Learned written by famed graphic designer Milton Glaser. It was great read, I highly recommend it. Item #5 in the essay caught my attention:

Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

It made me reflect on my approach to web design. I start with the purpose of the site, then identify the core elements to execute the functions. I tend to leave out the extras. So to me, “less” is “more” in the sense of serving the purpose of the site without distractions. This site is a prime example.

However, such design obviously isn’t appropriate for every type of site. When we think of “less is more,” we tend to paint of picture of something that’s bare and minimalistic. I like Mr. Glaser’s “enough is more” approach better. Because “enough” is when it’s appropriate.

I’ve started to re-evaluate the design of this site. Being a personal site, I feel I have some freedom to dictate how things are. So far, the goal is to put most emphasis on the articles, not the branding of the site, or myself even. But admittedly, I’ve sacrificed some usability by steering away from convention. Perhaps, I need to find that point of being “enough.”


also feel free to contact me on twitter or via email
Victor Boba 06-24-09

It’s refreshing to see someone with such talent, such as yourself, being able to reevaluate their core beliefs and adjust where necessary.

Aaron Irizarry 06-24-09

I also read that article, and really loved it. I like the “enough is more” concept because each site/project has a certain set of needs to be successful. It seems to breathe an air of flexibility, that I am not constrained by rules…. but by project needs.

Patrick Algrim 06-24-09

Yeah I totally agree with what Aaron just said, rules are something that can correctly be broken, or can correctly be used. Often times, most of them are not. But the end result is really what matters. Sometimes, people love cars from the 80′s, with wood panels and old 8-track players. Just because the car doesn’t sparkle, doesn’t mean the worth of the person who has it has gone down. Big ups!

Jin 06-24-09

@Victor, I’m far from talented. I think I’m just realistic about things :)

@Aaron ‘n Patrick. Thanks. As designers, we need to be flexible. The term “creative/design rules” almost sound paradoxical :)

BTW, I found this site today. It’s quite funny. http://www.ridiculousdesignrules.com/

Janko 06-24-09

You made fantastic points and I really love “enough is more” concept. That is something that many of us feel but can’t express it in such concise way (well, at least me).

Bobby Borszich 06-24-09

How very interesting what you took from the article. It is so refreshing to read intelligent thoughts about someone who wants to be a craftsmen not just a worker bee. Although this link about coding and not design, I think the post by Joe Stump is very similar to your take. http://tr.im/pCfm

Thanks for sharing.

Kim H 06-24-09

I like this rephrasing to a commonly repeated cliche. After all, there are some non-minimalistic designs which I find that I love.

As far as the design of your site goes, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts ever since finding them on Script & Style. I like how they all have a slightly different scheme, and yet are unified by a similar organization. Having your navigation in a fixed-position div was also a choice I found interesting, but it definitely gets the job done, was done so that it does not clash with the page, and is also convenient.

Jin 06-24-09

@Janko, thanks. I find the phrase really appropriate too. Because it’s not as restraining as others. e.g. “Don’t use white type on black” etc etc.

@Bobby, I think the same concept applies to all fields. There are rules, written by accomplished people based on their own experiences. I think it’s more important to understand the essence of those rules, than follow them robotically. Thanks for that link!

@Kim, I do plan to make some changes to this blog, if I find the time to. But it won’t be dramatic. I do like the way it is now. However I may add more “features.” Thanks!

[...] weeks site of the week is 8164 there is a great article entitled “Enough is More” a really great read about taking the [...]

tyrale 06-26-09

Love the read. I really appreciate this approach to a project. Attack a project with what it needs first. If we put so much work into hand coding, and original design, why not put that same effort to discover what is really needed for the project. Not just the standard set.

Jin 06-28-09

@Tyrale, thanks for the comment. Agreed, seeing the essence of the matter is the key. Everything else is a means to an end.