As communicators, it’s our job to slay the Complexity Dragon. This means reducing and simplifying the message, words and design of every piece we create.
Don’t underestimate how hard this is. A communication project—regardless of whether it’s an ad or a Web page—naturally leans towards adding one more idea, one more benefit, a few more words, more contact information. We want to tell all because we think it will make us more persuasive. But in fact by telling all we are likely to lose the reader, who doesn’t have the fortitude to weed through our message.
Apple, of course, has set a high bar for this with their fiercely reductionist view of writing and design. We cheer them for it. And yet so few companies adapt this technique for their brand.
Why? We’ll venture a few reasons.
- Committees are involved. Each person adds one more thing, and like an over-decked Christmas tree, the piece falters under its own weight.
- It’s harder. As Blaise Pascal said, “I would have made it shorter but I didn’t have time.” Reducing something to its bare essence is much, much more difficult and time-consuming and takes far more mental energy.
- Not everyone has a brain for it. The ability to simplify requires a mind that can move an idea from complexity to simplicity, and the focus of a race-car driver to keep clutter from encroaching.
- Not everyone has a stomach for it. It requires the ability to say no to people who may not want to hear it.
- It involves all the players. In other words, the strategists, creative directors, writers, designers and production team all have the potential for allowing project creep—a little here, a little there. This is the enemy of simplicity.
The road to simpler communications is surprisingly perilous. It can create hard feelings, disagreements and political quagmires. But oh, the results, when one sees it done well. And yes, it can and will translate to the bottom line. Just ask Apple.