„I have learned to seek the elegant solution – the singular and deceptively simple idea with huge impact that lies beyond the enormous complexity of the challenging business problems we all face in our companies.“
Although he holds that there are no simple recipes for elegance, Matthew May states in his excellent book The Elegant Solution that the quest for elegance shapes true innovation.
In the fields of information technology, mathematics, science and engineering, elegant solutions provide a surprisingly simple method, which is normally not obvious at first sight, to produce a highly effective result, often solving multiple problems at once - even problems, which may not be inter-related!
Truly elegant solutions solve multiple, often unrelated problems
The Swiss army knife may provide us with a practical, tangible illustration of such elegance. The simple, straightforward surface design of this tool is actually misleading, for although it is called a knife, it actually provides multi-purpose functionality.
The basic version normally includes:
a couple of knives
a pair of scissors
And so on…
Nowadays, many of these Swiss army knives include cool gadgets like an altimeter, a USB-stick, etc.
Too much of a good thing is the enemy of elegance
Trying to create too much "added value" may have a detrimental effect. Some designers have included so many different gadgets and functionalities in to their version of the Swiss army knife, that the result is a heavy, cumbersome, impractical tool, lacking the essential elegance of the original design.
In the process of innovation, true elegance must strike a fine balance between complexity and simplicity to create optimal value. To quote the January 2007 edition of Architecture & Design: «Elegance allows for complexity to coincide with a relative reduction of complication by integrating multiple elements into a coherent, comprehensive, continuous and complete system, which can easily be understood. »
As in the example of the Swiss army knife, elegance requires a relative reduction of complexity. The key to creating optimal value when creating new tools, methods, models, concepts and solutions, is to strike the ideal balance between simplicity of design and the usefulness of multifunctional complexity. If you need to read a user’s manual before you can utilize a tool, product, solution or process, it is probably not truly elegant.
According to my research and experience, true elegance requires no formal explanation.
It speaks for itself.
Find out more about how you can benefit from the secrets of true elegance: