(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;
To understand what it means to me to be an ‘Agent of Simplicity’, you must first understand how I regard the universe, and further than that, existence as a whole. I believe that the purpose of the universe, life, and existence, is the experience of patterns. Experience itself is the very core of why we exist, or for that matter, anything else. And it is through the navigation and interaction of patterns that we exercise the fabric of reality. So what does that mean? Let’s start by trying to define some of the core elements of this theory.
The broadest definition of the universe can be found in De divisione naturae by the medieval philosopher and theologian Johannes Scotus Eriugena, who defined it as simply everything: everything that is created and everything that is not created.
I don’t think we will ever know the purpose of the universe. So it is to us to apply purpose as we see it, but to me the purpose of the universe, is to experience it. To accumulate a currency in patterns experienced and patterns exchanged between other beings. This is a concept that I call Pattern Experience.
A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects. These elements repeat in a predictable manner. It can be a template or model which can be used to generate things or parts of a thing, especially if the things that are created have enough in common for the underlying pattern to be inferred, in which case the things are said to exhibit the unique pattern.
Everything we experience is done through the observation and interaction with patterns. Concise collections of elements all the way down to the subatomic particles that make up the atoms and elements of everything, light, energy, matter, etc. it’s such a simple concept but fundamental to understanding the universe and thus our place and interaction with it. Simple patterns spiral fractally up into larger more complex patterns as they are observed, manipulated, and perpetuated. As merely a collection of patterns ourselves we take that joy in observing and experiencing their nuance and difference. We define ourselves by the patterns that we enjoy most and the patterns we share with those around us. Each interaction is a pattern exchange for the purpose of the experience. Understanding this fundamental truth lets us easily break down drives and intention of the beings we’re trying to influence with the products and services we create.
So how do we get there? Simplicity!
Simplicity vs. Complexity
Simplicity is the method by which we continue to experience the nuance and patterns of the universe. We tend towards simplicity over complexity, and each decision we make is a dance between simplicity and complexity. But we also derive satisfaction from simplicity, and the conversion from the complex to the simple. Our brains are wired to reward that conversion, and so we look for it in our lives almost at a subconscious level. We strive to maximize simplicity to further our abilities to experience the patterns we’ve grown attached to. But there in lies a problem, attachment. When we convert complexity to simplicity we often hold on to that simplicity. That simplicity becomes both monument but also anchor on our ability to seek and convert further.
Take the example of a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has no purpose or function aside from exercising our enjoyment of converting complexity into simplicity. Each piece placed rewards our need for that conversion, but what happens when the puzzle is complete? Do we break it down, into the box and go on? Or do we glue, tape, and save that monument to our abilities to convert? Do we collect those monuments until they clutter and fill our lives? By understanding this form of attachment we learn to more easily anticipate the behaviors of people, and indeed the users that we design for.
An ‘Agent of Simplicity’ strives for balance in the experiences they create, between simplicity and pattern experience. An agent works to create only that which is true to the purpose of the experience, and an agent strives to resist attachment to that which has been created in favor of further simplicity. These philosophies and tactics inform everything I do as a designer and as a person to create for myself and my clients.