Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” is a quote I recently heard while listening to Steve Job’s biography and it stuck with me as a brilliant one to think about. I see now the quote is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, and it’s beautiful in its complexity.

In any case, the quote was used in an Apple Computer brochure in 1977, introducing the Apple II personal computer. A snapshot of the cover, below:

Designers today might have improvements to this, but I don’t think anyone can disagree this was true to its values and innovative for the world in 1977. If curious, you can find here the full brochure. Beyond design and the world of computers, I want now to further explore the simplicity and sophistication concepts for us in the world we live in nowadays.

Simplicity

Every problem usually has a simple solution, but as simple as that is, it’s still hard to implement. Because it requires will and mostly, the discipline to do what it takes. Can be routine, boring tasks, repeated endlessly till you make it. How do you think great world problems were solved? Or how do world class athletes made it? Don’t overcomplicate anything, things are simple if you’re willing to see it. The hard this is doing.

The world that is in our immediate reach. Can we define it as a simple one? Do we live in a house crowded with things we never use and we never know how to make room for more? Is our work life complicated with politics and complex decision making involving everyone and going through endless approvals? Can we be bluntly honest with our life partner anytime that’s the case, without feeling afraid this will turn out bad? That’s a sad, uselessly complicated life we need to sort out. It’s simple to see that, I know, and I already warned you it’s hard to implement.

Moving on closer to ourselves. When facing a decision, do you tend to take a simple approach or overcomplicate things? What about when solving a problem? Or in an argument? Of course it’s good to put yourself in other’s shoes, but as a general rule, do you usually come up with a simple outcome? Or you’re the master in making sure this gets as intricate as possible? Remember simple is the real sophistication.

Sophistication

Sophistication in today’s world is considered to be a measure of refinement. Sophisticated people display good taste, wisdom and subtlety. In terms of social class, it can be linked to status, privilege and superiority. But nothing in here says anything about being complicated, difficult or anything like this.

While it can be a measure of fitting in, I believe we can all achieve our own form of sophistication. We just need to define what is that for us. Being loyal to certain brands, being part of a certain group or club, share common passions, have some specific believes and so on. In the end, it all comes down to clarity. And to become clear on yourself and your desires, you need to become a simplicity master. Learn to keep thing simple.

There’s plenty of advice on keeping things simple (like the famous KISS method “keep it simple, stupid” used by the U.S Navy in 1960), as most systems work better if they are kept simple rather than complicated. It’s also known that writing shorter letters, or giving shorter presentations require more time, as any simple thing. To live a simple life takes some effort, but it’s the only hope for clarity, happiness and sophistication.

Be simple, be sophisticated!