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Books Design Nudge Blog

Elegance – may be something missing

Book cover of the In Pursuit of Elegance book

I’m just halfway through this book and am so excited about it that I have to post this right now!

This is a must for anyone that wants to convey a message, catch people off guard, make something truly remarkable – all of us, right?

He talks at length (but in an engaging way) about what he conveys in the tagline – “why the best ideas have something missing.” There is something about minimizing, removing, and simplifying that sometimes brings the most amazing results. Unexpected results. He calls this elegance.

As an example, he shares the Laweiplein experiment. Dratchen, a Dutch city, has a junction/busy intersection referred to as Laweiplein. Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic investigator turned engineeer, designed this intersection. Basically, he took away all the signs, stoplights and sidewalks.

What…..

Yep, took them all away. And, in taking them away created what Matthew May (the author) states “great safety in danger.”

The awareness of the drivers went up. The awareness of the walkers went up. The awareness of the bikers went up.

Did anything go down?

Yes. Accidents!

There was something about having less, that forced drivers, walkers, and bikers to be more aware. They couldn’t rely on all the usual suspects (signs, lights and lines on the road). They had to rely on their own mind and judgement. They had to act smart and use their brain!

He shares another example where participants in a study were given a new camera ad in three forms:

  • Picture with no words
  • Picture with a few key pieces of info
  • Picture with lots of detailed information

What did people respond to best? The middle option – the one with just enough information. Many people call this the “goldilocks effect.” Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Do I dare share one more example?

Did you watch the last episode of The Sopranos? I didn’t, but apparently it caught everyone off guard. The screen went blank at the end of the hour and everyone assumed it was a temporary blackout or other issue. It wasn’t. It was just an unexpected ending. At first people were mad, but then they started talking about it, trying to find the meaning and starting online discussions about all the implications.

What does this mean for you – a producer of ideas, products and services?

The psychology of elegance is an interesting thing. You must appeal to people. You must get them to select you over someone else, or in addition to another product. You must stimulate their interest.

So, here are three points made by Soman and Menon (researchers that performed the picture test above):

  1. Arouse curiosity by demonstrating a moderate gap in the observer’s knowledge.
  2. Provide just enough information to make them want to resolve their curiosity.
  3. Give them time to try to resolve their curiosity on their own.

This book goes into all kinds of topics related to elegance, psychology, marketing, engineering, painting, fractals, etc. Like I’m not even done with the book yet and so I’m sure that there are far more topics.

My summary isn’t elegant, but I’m hoping that I’ve accomplished #1 and #2 above and that you’ll go read the rest of the book – or at least go off and read a better review. (-:

Follow-Up

Just finished the book! The four main principles are:

  • Symetry
  • Seduction
  • Subtraction
  • Sustainability

Check out the book to learn the details!

Categories
Design Inspiration

Sandbox

Did you have a sandbox when you were little? Where you tried out your skills at making castles surrounded by little lakes, rivers and moats?

Sand pail and scopeWhen did you stop playing in the sand?

And, do you know why?

A sandbox is a wonderful place where you can build something from the imagination, make mistakes, and quickly start right over again on the same idea or something different.

Do you have a sandbox right now for the book you are writing, the business you are starting or for the company you are already running?

A safe place to brainstorm ideas, test out possibilities, capture lessons learned from mistakes?

Programmers often have a “test server” to make sure that files work right before going to a “production server” where the public actually sees the results. Graphic artists might have a special file where they save all their examples or collect ideas for future projects. Photographers might have a secret site where they upload pictures to see how they look on the screen before displaying them in their portfolio. Podcasters record their voices and go back and manipulate, cut seconds, add music and play around with different speeds all behind the scenes before you see the final version in iTunes. In the simplest form, a Word document (or blog entry) is in a sandbox when you review it, correct spelling, add all the formatting and get it the way you want it before you hit “send” or “post.”

Here at Nudge Village we’ve started a blog to act as a kind of sandbox. We are going to capture the journey of building this site – lessons learned, experiments and ideas along the way. We’ll share our mistakes and some of the surprises. We’ll open it up to the readers at some point. Sandcastle

Heck, maybe we’ll even do it now – check out http://nudgevillage.blogspot.com! It is sparsely populated because we are just getting started, but perhaps you’d like to take a look and make something similar (in concept) for yourself.

Each of you will have a different place and approach to try out and test your ideas. It isn’t really important how or where, but that you have that place (virtually or physically) and that you like going there. A safe place to practice and improve your skill or product.

Take a look at this sandbox!

As a side note, here’s a talented young woman who actually “plays in a sandbox” and has developed an amazing talent. Enjoy it and take a look at the other YouTube videos that are related. Beautiful!