A Call For 'Elegant Simplicity'
I was having lunch at the MPA-AMC conference last week with a very major publisher who is deeply involved with the creation of digital magazines. His titles have had great notoriety and a fair amount of success. To make a point in this conversation I devised an analogy that a few days later still makes a great sense to me.
The analogy goes like this. We were in a room with two hundred people. Any of these people can get into any car anywhere in the world and drive away without a tutorial. Digital magazines must have the same universality of navigation. When anyone picks up a digital magazine, they shouldn't need a tutorial about how to read it. It should be simple and obvious. If it isn't, the designer has failed.
I think that digital magazines are calling for and need great designers, and not necessarily great programmers. I have had the privilege of working with some of the best artists and magazine designers that our industry has to offer.
This week the industry buzz is that Esquire magazine released a new iPad app edition. I am not saying we shouldn't use every tool and link available to us, but I would rather that the ease of use of a digital magazine be totally obvious to everyone. In the new release it wasn't.
I have enjoyed Esquire since I was a kid ... well, at least since I was a young man. I purchased the Esquire app and my current and biggest pet peeve is that the navigation isn't simple. With iPad digital magazines you have at least four directions to swipe—north, south, east or west. Would it be too much to ask to have a small arrow in the upper corner depicting the possible and preferred directions the reader can choose from—a simple directional compass to eliminate the frustrations of inadvertently getting lost?
What I have learned by my combined experience with artists is that the best and most creative designs have what I would call classic simplicity. The classics are classics not because of what the designer put into the project, but by what they left out. Elegant simplicity breeds classic good looks and, in this case, ease of functionality. Simplicity is a more elegant weapon in such complex times.
As Albert Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler."