Less is More

Less is moreThe renowned phrase, “Less is More” represents the notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. It is the driving force behind the evolution of minimalism (and “reductionism”) in art, music, design, literature, architecture et al.

Origin of the phrase:

This is a 19th century proverbial phrase. It is often associated with the German-born American architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style.

He developed the use of exposed steel structure and glass to enclose and define space, striving for an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of open space. He called his buildings “skin and bones” eliminating interior walls and adopting an open plan. His architectural design was strong, aesthetic, flattened, transparent and elegant! He was a true follower of the aphorisms “Less is more” and “God is in the details”.

Yet another artist who adopted a similar saying, “Doing more with less” was designer Buckminster Fuller towards technology and engineering.

But the phrase “Less is More” was actually used first by poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) in his work, Andrea del Sarto describing a faultless painter. The relevant part of the poem goes thus:-

. . .you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,–
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)–so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.

There is a book with the title, “Less is More: An Anthology of Ancient & Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity” describing the underlying principle of the phrase edited by Goldian VandenBroeck. He has emphasized “Voluntary poverty and monopoly of values” in his book.

The American psychologist and author of “The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less” Barry Schwartz talks on how to do “more with less” in this podcast:-

Less is More

(From IT Conversations)

Remember the KISS principle!

[Updated on 2013-10-05]

Please read my article on Sheena Iyengar on the same subject.

You may also like to watch this video by Barry Schwartz:

Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice

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