Archive for the ‘simplicity’ Tag

Thinking in 3: The iPod

I’m not an iPod junkie and use a hand-me-down I got given a few months ago. Before that I was carting around a Sony discman and a thick sleeve of CDs.

So I missed the evolution of the iPod, but John Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity filled me in (the 1-2-3 above).

What do you see in that diagram? You can recognise the final idea in the first stage. The second stage looks overthought – the worst of the three. The final idea? So familiar now you take it for granted. It’s all quidditas.

When I think of my own work, it tends to come in the same 3s. There’s a few ways you can frame this:

1. Intuition; 2. Awareness; 3. Knowledge

1. Amateur; 2. Professional; 3. Expert

Your first ideas often get to the nub of it. You’re not overthinking, no detail to get in the way – it’s when you’re thinking nimbly.

You can tell if you’re onto something at that first stage. The same way you can spot talent in an amateur.

At the second stage, the detail comes in. It can throttle your intuition and leave you bloated, overwrought. You’re too aware of what you’re meant to be doing.

To my mind, that’s why the word “professional” can have a negative connotation. You account for everything but say nothing. You don’t see that raw inspiration you get in an amateur, or that definition you get in an expert.

That comes out in the third stage. You go beyond awareness and into knowledge. You know well enough what you’re doing to harness the detail and use it precisely. You can organise and refine.

And you might find your idea nestling in a few million pockets around the world.

Clouds vs. Adverts

Round 1 São Paulo, January 2007 (photos by Tony de Marco)

The general public terrorised by aimless, drifting clouds. Where still, stately adverts once filled billboards on highways and street corners, the hoardings now stood bare.

São Paulo banned outdoor advertising. And, joking aside, there weren’t many complaints. (Advertisers aside.)

Sure – some folks lost landmarks that helped them navigate the streets. Outdoor ads can have this auxiliary function when they stay put long enough. But the reduction of visual noise was and has been appreciated.

For the record, here’s a glimpse of what São Paulo was like before:

Round 2 – Tel Aviv, January 2008 (via Treehugger)

The central “Ayalon” highway was the battle ground. And once again, on New Year’s Eve, ads lost.

A 40 year-old law won – ensuring that “fields and hills will not be stained as well with objects foreign to them.” First shroudings were broadcast live on TV (see below).

Round 4 – Buenos Aires, August 2008 (via The Anti-Advertising Agency)

It’s not happened yet, but it will do soon. Original story (for Spanish readers) from Clarín, reported at length by Treehugger and remixed for your leisure here.

Buenos Aires will remove 40,000 billboards that are infracting the city’s code. That amounts to 60% of the city’s outdoor advertising. It’s projected to result in something that looks like this. But it won’t be illustrated. It’ll be so real your camera can taste it.

The billboards were causing a hazard to drivers. With the digital flashes and cavalier cab-driving of the capital, this move could match the pleasure of finding a seat belt.

Better still – the new codes insist that different types of signs are tailored to each district’s visual style. Now that’s personalisation. Localisation, for the literal-minded reader.

Round 5 – Atlanta, sometime in 1951 (photo via)

The lights are turned off. Not even the messaging of the sky to mist this scene.

Just two signs catch my eye: Coca-Cola and Club Perchtree.

Club Perchree has a strapline I wish I’d written: “Dine and Dance”. That’s all you need to know, isn’t it? I’d go if I was hungry and wanted to move my feet after the eat.

And Coca-Cola? Well – it’s Atlanta. Colonised by Coke as a 20th-century sugar plantation. The first brand flag stabbed into the landscape by its native conquerors.

Incidentally, although Butler’s Shop is highly visible it doesn’t interest me. What kind of shop? Don’t know – so I’ll go for a dine and dance instead. Maybe drink a Coke while I’m there.

Points Score

The judges give a unanimous victory to simplicity in the city.

I’m an advertiser who lives in the city. So where does this leave me?

Content, for one. Excited, for two.

Because if you can reduce and organise, as John Maeda would say, you’re off to a start. Proceed with integrity – you’re communicating to other people – and you’ll be heading somewhere.

Not a billboard on your cobblestone highway.