I recently learned of a book titled The Power of Less by Leo Babauta, author of the popular Office Zen. This book helps the reader understand the importance of getting rid of unimportant tasks at work and home. As I read reviews and an interview about the book with Leo Babauta, I started relating his book to design and communication, and simple principles that make them more effective. In design and communication, less is more.

Forget Me Not

In my experience, small businesses have a fear of being forgotten, so they spill the beans–all of them. All at once. Their website homepage can quickly become cluttered with every small detail. In an attempt to capture the visitor’s attention, this tactic overwhelms the user. Usually the user leaves frustrated and confused.

Less elements asking for attention, equals more emphasis on important elements. Can you imagine your focus on raising 2 children compared to 12! There’s nothing wrong with having 12 children, but the parent with 2 will be able to focus more centralized attention. And 12 are far more expensive! Your business can take the 2 child approach, letting your readers and customers focus on what really matters, and forget the rest.

The More You Say, The More People Forget

We all have a friend who sends loads of email forwards, or talks incessantly. Michael Scott, the boss on the T.V. show the Office, is the “forward” guy. The more our forwarding-frenzied friends send, and the more they say, the less we pay attention. If another friend only sends a forward every three months, we might be more prone to read.

Our designs, ads, business cards, and sales approach say something, whether verbal, written, or visual. Do they say too much though, and too often? Humans have a natural tendency to over-emphasize.

How do I incorporate Less?

Your first goal should be unifying your message–large businesses call this an IMC (Integrated Marketing Communication) plan. Adapt your message for each communication tool you use. Think of your sales pitch, your website, your business card, and determine if the messages are cloudy and/or different from each other. Why do you think Papa John’s napkins, pizza boxes, answering message, website, and staff all share the same message? It wasn’t on accident. Being clear and concise gives you a guideline for every part of your communication plan, and emphasizes unity and simplicity.

Remove the clutter. Trying to say two things on your homepage is more focused than trying to say five. You might need to say five, but emphasize two. Work with your designer to craft a unified message on your site and collateral. The result will be more focused, smart, and simple communication.

Don’t Go Overboard with Less

The theme of this article is that less is more. I stand by my argument that less is indeed more, but, be clear enough to give the important information out. No more, no less. Being vague is just as bad as providing every detail all at once. Some customers love getting all the details (and you can provide them), just don’t let those details cloud your message.

This video should really drive home the point. Enjoy!

Microsoft redesigns the iPod package