A simple design philosophy

One of my favorite quotes is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Good old Antoine has surfaced in my consciousness periodically since high school when I was introduced to his most famous work, Le Petit Prince in Mr. Steindler’s French class. Saint-Exupery’s take on design has served me well no matter what I was designing. Simplify it until you can’t any more. It works for photography, motion design, web apps, and even large, complex professional tools.

Media Composer boxSpending three years designing components for Media Composer, keeping it simple can be tough. Our customers aren’t doing simple things. They are crafting very complex stories with hugely complex systems delivering their raw materials. There’s only so much you can do to simplify extremely detailed workflows that require a high degree of customizability. But it’s clear, our best received features have been those with fewer buttons, fewer menu commands, and fewer settings. A good example of what I mean is Media Composer 6’s in-app stock footage purchasing workflow. Here the designers and engineers took the often exasperating process of searching, browsing, organizing, downloading, purchasing, and conforming stock footage and made it simple. Find it, edit with it, and buy it. The software does the rest.

There are two ways to delight the user. Either give him something absolutely new and wonderful that changes his approach to his craft, or allow him to stop banging his head against the wall. We all love to achieve the former, but the latter should be just as satisfying to the designer.

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