apple_minimalism The trend towards minimalism started long before Apple (AAPL). Steve Jobs embraced the concept with products like the Mac, and its all-in-one design, or the iPod with its simple, multipurpose click wheel, and the iPhone with its blank glass palette and single home button.

The irony, or perhaps oxymoronic assertion, that “less is more” is founded on the philosophy and principles of many great inventors, artists, and designers throughout the ages. For example, Einstein’s tenet that it’s best to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler, has inspired and guided many engineers to create extraordinarily useful things, myself included.

The irony is that making things simple and elegant can be quite difficult, and requires a philosophy, a primary tenet to follow. Steve Jobs often said that his primary design principle revolves around, and I paraphrase; “not what you can add, but what you can remove.”

John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, named one of the 21 most influential persons in the twenty-first century, published a book called The Laws of Simplicity. And his number one rule is to Reduce, which states, “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.”

The aphorism “less is more” was the central theme to the emergence of modern architecture, embraced by greats such as Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. And they were in turn influenced by the simple beauty and function of traditional Japanese design, developed over millennia. It’s certainly not a stretch to include Steve Jobs’ name among these greats.

Jobs understood that there’s a profound beauty in designs where the subject is reduced to its necessary elements, where form follows function in elegant presentation. Less is more, because when the distractions of useless ornament are removed, it allows us to focus on an intended purpose. This economy of mind frees our imagination to explore new ground, increasing our chance for serendipitous discoveries and encounters.

The iPhone 5 maintains and advances the “less is more” philosophy, set out by the original design, by simultaneously increasing the display size, while reducing the weight and thickness of the phone. This simple improvement dramatically improves the video and picture capability of the phone, provides more area for apps, and makes the phone easier to hold and more comfortable to operate.

It’s a small and seemingly innocuous change, yet it produces a phone that’s far more usable and capable. The real beauty, though, is hidden from the pedestrian user, and that’s the brilliant engineering and huge advances in manufacturing processes that went into making this device a little less.

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7 Responses to iPhone 5 – Why Less is More

  1. johan says:

    I had to go to wikipedia to get the definition of some of the words you used in this article. Keep it simple for us less educated individuals. Has AAPL hit bottom yet? Thanks Ernie. One more thing. What are the beliefs of the religion you are ordained in?

  2. Dudeism is in the same tradition as, ind like a modern interpretation of Taoism, or even Buddhism, but without much rigor…actually no rigor. I’m also a Zen Buddhist, so I believe in the 4 noble truths, which are based on freeing ourselves from attachment, and the 8 fold path, which is kind of a moral code on how to best travel through life.

  3. Larry Hamilton says:

    I agree with the notion that the iphone 5 size is the best it can be. Unfortunately, we need to add an additional iphone with a bigger screen because we have a major competitor that has this feature and a lot of people seem to like it. Must not fall into the notion of “if not invented here, then it is no good”. I am saying we need the current configuration and a iphone with a bigger screen to cover the demand market. The customer is king!

    • I agree Apple needs a bigger phone, but not because the competitor has one, but rather because a quality bigger phone is needed. A phone that completes the product line, not one that copies others.

  4. Ovi Popescu says:

    Great Job Ernie

    I would add that one of the many reasons Apple is staying away from bigger iPhones is privacy. With everyone busy reading their iPhones, there is a certain amount of privacy people expect to achieve. For the same reason that many place a lock on their phones, people don’t want complete strangers reading their emails, text messages, or other personal data. With a smaller iPHone it is easier to remain private vs a large 5′ phone. And yes iPads do not provide the same protection, but they are usually read in a location that is usually more private.

    • Never thought of privacy as being an issue, but it’s an interesting thought. I’m starting to lean towards a bigger phone only because my eyes are starting to go as the years pass me by.

  5. Archimo says:

    Funny thing that is that Microsoft took many of these principles to heart or the team they hired to develop Windows Phone. As a long time Apple Fan I have been using a windows phone for almost a year and find it beautifully minimalistic. I miss a certain personal friendly feel I get from using an iPhone, but when I go back to it I see how cluttered and old the GUI looks. So clearly apple innovates in wave it has ridden the wave to the shore and is now beached. I hope iOS7 is an improvement. They were take my surprise and fire Mr. Forstall. Not Sure if Ive has had enough time to totally rethink the ios and mac os based on the founding principles of simplicity. I am not sure they would for fear of alienating users however. ( I will add that missing certain key apps on Windows Phone is a pain, but that is the fault of developers or maybe it is the lack of market share. Either consumers are herd followers or really don’t appreciate simplicity.)

    There were so many examples of when they did this and often. The early totally different yearly iterations of ipod mini and nano are an example. Even they iMac was frequently transfigured. Now it has been a slow evolution for all these products.

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