Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Clarity vs. simplicity

According to Oxford Dictionary:

the quality of being clear, in particular:
– the quality of being coherent and intelligible
– the quality of being easy to see or hear; sharpness of image or sound
– the quality of being certain or definite
– the quality of transparency or purity

– the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do
– the quality or condition of being plain or uncomplicated in form or design

By definition, both words mean directness of expression. But being simple implies being basic, free from complications and elaborations, while being clear requires sharpness in communication, free from obscurity or ambiguity. Some people get the two words mixed up, assuming something simple would naturally mean it’s clear. In my opinion, clarity is far more demanding than simplicity. Clarity is good with or without simplicity. In fact, it requires more effort to achieve clarity with complexity. On the other hand, simplicity is only good when it’s clear. Simplicity without clarity is just dumb and meaningless.

Design is an art of communicating ideas. Clarity is intelligence and simplicity is just form.


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