I finished participating in a webinar this morning and my head is dizzy with its words. They appeared on the PowerPoint of a presentation brim-full of details. From all those displayed bullets what did I remember? Very little.
I once took a course in boating safety with my granddaughter in which the instructor started the course by having one student help another put on a life jacket. “Fit snugly enough?”, he asked. “Yes,” was the reply. He then asked the girl with the lifejacket on to lift her hands above her head. He grabbed the top loop of the jacket and pulled it right over her head, adding he had pulled a young girl from the deep waters of an Adirondack Lake whose life jacket had similarly come off. No preaching or admonishment, facts and figures, or other information. A demonstration that took under two minutes total compelled Indigo and me to pay close attention to all that followed. This is one form of simplicity.
A wonderful column by Marty Fugate appearing in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on April 18 gave me a very different way to approach simplicity. It focused on a local exhibit of Saito Kiyoshi, one of Japan’s most significant creative print artists. From the article:
Saito’s style resists imitation—and defies description as well. It’s easy to say what it’s not. His art has no waste, no excess, no second-guessing. Each print says what it has to say and shuts up. Great. So now that we know what his art isn’t—what is it?
Simply put: divine simplicity.
A distillation of image. In the artistic equivalent of Jenga, Saito removed as much detail as possible from his prints—to the point the image would fall apart if one more element were removed.
What a wonderful approach to both defining and achieving simplicity. We are largely taught to create the main point and then add details to complete the picture. Divine simplicity sees the essence as the picture. We get there not by adding but by subtracting. Don’t just condense and compress all content. Rather, start at the edges and take stuff off. If the core is untouched, keep going.
Next week a Wednesday Whimsey on how greatness prunes words.