Less Is More: Swimming in Sweden (guest post)

This is a guest post by Edwin van Dijk. Edwin is a master of science in Building technology, studied business administration and has soft spots for gadgets, software development, photography and design. He is currently a business unit manager at ISM eCompany and wonders on a daily basis which elements can be removed to improve the complex system that is his life.

Yes, this is a post about swimming "Adam style" in a Swedish lake. Honestly…

A few years ago my wife spent a few months in Stockholm for a research project. During my visit we went off to one of the numerous islands (Möja) in the archipelago of Stockholm. The beauty of this particular island is that it houses a few natural lakes. We settled ourselves on a big boulder, had a bit of a swim and enjoyed the sounds of nature while sunbathing. I remember wondering what could possibly add to the perfect situation at that moment. After thinking about this for a while I realized that it wasn’t a question of adding something. Instead, something needed to be removed from the equation. Yes, my swimming trunks. I was thrilled that a near perfect setting could be improved by simply removing something.

As with most of the world’s smart ideas I wasn’t the first to think of it. "Less is More" is a quote from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect and leader of the Bauhaus movement in Germany. His lifelong mission was to create not only a new architectural style, but also a new architectural language that could be used to represent the new era of technology and production. Struggling with the rapidly increasing complexity of the architectural profession he realized that simplification is often a key to successful engineering and esthetic design.

Every building design is a complex system of esthetics, engineering and functional specifications. You easily end up with an overly complex design that performs at a mediocre level and doesn’t look or feel anything like the Barcelona Pavilion, the Sydney Opera House or the Gugenheim Museum in Bilbao. Often it’s simplifications that add to the feel of purpose that a building design radiates. Like the Swiss army knife that becomes more and more undefined with every extra tool that’s added. Surprisingly, it’s not only the esthetic design that benefits from simplifications but also the engineering and the functional plan.

The challenges that come with designing buildings are similar to those of software development. It’s no coincidence that we talk about software architects. Much in the same way software development and web design suffer from complexity pitfalls. They are complex systems of programming code, visual design and customer specifications. Also the technologies and customer requirements in this field evolve on a daily basis. Recently it occurred to me that every time we propose simplifications in the architecture and visual design of websites it benefits the creation of a cleaner and more manageable product. The purpose of the product gets emphasized and therefore the added value of the product is more visible. This in turn will enhance the customer satisfaction.

In short: when dealing with complex designs, always try to remove instead of add and you will be surprised by the results.

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