Common sense tells us that simplicity should be the simplest thing. However, our first versions are complex, dispersed and confusing, while simplicity requires an effort. The Design’s mission is to guide us in this process of simplification. Let’s see how the use of flashcards could help us.

Something that has always been intriguing to me is why making things simple is much harder than making them complex. Why is it easier to write an incomprehensible instruction manual of 200 pages? Why is it easier to make customers go through a maze of services, products and stages that ends up confusing them?

To simplify means sailing in a sea of information to get the essence. Obviously, it is much easier and comfortable to transfer to the customers a muddle of data, services, prices, conditions and instructions and expect them to understand what we are offering.

Design is the art of simplifying by the application of a set of principles based on the knowledge of customer behavior. A clear example of this is the instruction manual that comes with the iPad’s package. It consists of a small card that indicates where the buttons are and how to turn on the device. Nothing more and nothing less. Simply perfect.

iPad2 instructions
The two sides of the iPad instructions card.

One could argue that the iPad is so simple that it does not need to include more information. However, in the Apple website you can find a user guide of 198 pages! I would bet that the design of that card took a lot more work than the user guide.

My school teacher used to say: “If you cannot explain it, you do not understand it.” Similarly, if we are not able to simplify a product, service or information, it means that we do not know what we are doing or what we are offering to the customer. If you don’t know how to simplify it, you don’t know what is essential.

Would we be able to explain one of our services or products on one card? This could be an interesting exercise in simplification.

In fact, the use of cards is not something new. Many of us have used flashcards to facilitate the study of some subject. Besides Apple, on the Internet we can also find some interesting examples of flashcards that could inspire us. I leave you with two examples that have caught my attention:

WikiHow Survival Kit App

WikiHow Survival Kit App

Alphabet Flashcards for Design

Alphabet Flashcards for Design