The Simple Things in Life

The Simple Things in Life

In yesterday’s lecture, we had a discussion on which one is more preferable for building envelope, complexity or simplicity.  This brought upon various topics of what complexity and simplicity is and its effect on the world.  What is most intriguing to me is the discussion on how complexity and simplicity not being able to exist without the other.  This is something I strongly agree on.  We prefer the simple things in life.  It is through the hard work of trials and errors to the completion of our goals.

I just recently read an article in the New York Times regarding on how innovations have made life much easier for us.  Though there were various types of innovations that were mentioned only one caught my attention, which was about subway transportation.  Being the directionally challenged person that I am, subway stations any type of public transportation that requires using a map frightens me.  I tend to over think on my routes and usually end up getting myself lost.  Of course now it is easier to navigate through the subway due to the consistency of the routing system.  But this leads to the question on how is this possible?  The time and effort put into programing the right system where anyone can travel on a subway by simply following colored routes to get to their destinations is amazing.

This leads me back to the article I’ve just read.  Alice Rawsthorn mentioned in the New York Times about utilizing the New York subway system and what action should one take if one of the line were planned to be shut down for the day.  Apparently M.T.A. (Metropolitan Transit Authority) came up with a system online where you can plan your route for the day and see if there would be any closed route.  It is also a way for people utilize digital information that can easily narrowed down their search instead of looking through charts and timetables.  There was a lot of hard work and planning put into creating this system.  Who came up with the system and how was it put together?  There will always a lot of time and effort put into making things simple for everyone.  We cannot have complexity without simplicity.

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One comment

  1. lask0062

    I agree with what you say about the effect of simplicity in the world. Your specific example of subway transportation was interesting to me because I too just read about it from a different source. I also stumbled across a TED Talk regarding this idea as well.

    However, I think that you are missing a key idea in simplicity. You spoke about the subway being easier to navigate “due to the consistency of the routing system” and I think you needed to go one step further to answer your question of “how is this possible?”.

    Public Transportation looks like little strings all through the city center creating a web of a maze. I know when I go to a new city, the public transportation system is one of the most scary things to me. With so many options, and everything running on a continuous path, it’s intimidating. And then looking upon a map to see the path that different forms of transportation makes it seem impossible to find how to get to where you need to go. The example given in the TED Talk was about reconstructing the public transportation map of Dublin, Ireland. It was soon found that maps can be very confusing because of it’s complex system of lines everywhere. What needed to be done was to be the balance between actual representation and simplification. This was the answer to creating something simple from a complex idea to make it understandable to people.

    I think that it took an experienced and skillful designer to find the solutions to this. In this example, they showed what a map would look like if all forms of transportation were represented with an individual line. This image was extremely complex and unreadable. What the designer then did to simplify was find ways that lines could be combined while still representing them as an individual bus. They created a system of simplified lines and added the numbers of the routes next to what line they follow. They paid careful attention to the surroundings as well. The designer kept the map visually simple by including only the main streets and a few side streets, and select landmarks that are important to the city. By doing this, they keep the main idea and purpose of the map, which is to serve as a means of guidance on the transportation routes, visible and clear without being distracting.

    I think that this idea of learning to simplify is an important lesson to all types of designers. I know that for me personally, it is very hard because I feel that every detail is important to the creation of an idea. But I am learning, as I construct my portfolio, that for certain audiences, different amounts of information are necessary. For example, at a presentation, all precedent work is helpful because then it shows your reviewers how you arrived at your idea. But in something much smaller such as a portfolio, it is important to show just what is necessary to explain your idea. I had one professor teach me the phrase “Kill Off Your Darlings” meaning, that even though all of your work is precious, you need to be honest and pick what is the best overall representation to communicate what needs to be said.

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