Thoughtful Reduction and the Miniaturization of Expression

Posted on Mar 2, 2007

As I was designing for a client web application today, I kept living through John Maeda’s first law of simplicity: thoughtful reduction. The goal was to design a new comments system for parts of the site so members were more likely to leave little notes for each other. In order to make it fun and easy, we wanted to reduce the person’s input to as few clicks as possible, but with enough expression that she would want to click it.

The world has already gotten smaller with electronic communication and a distortion of time and space, but it’s now getting even smaller in digital terms. Twitter and Tumblr have made microblogging more appealing than blogging. It’s faster and more immediate. Recent web services like IMified make it possible to send commands (like to do’s) to applications through short instant messages. With emoticons and SMS and IM shortcuts, we can reduce our expression to one click or one or two characters. <3 is as meaningful an expression to a digital citizen as a Shakespeare sonnet is to a poet. I like to think of it as the miniaturization of expression. This, coupled with our desire for speed and immediacy, begs the question, how small and fast will we go?