Jul 20

Embrace simplicity

Simple is not my default. In daily life my motto could be: why do it easy when it can be difficult? Simple didn't exist in my professional vocabulary for a long time either. I described infographics that clarified complex data with euphemisms like "simple" and "clear" or "reduced to the essentials". Simple sounds silly, cheap and lazy, like you're not taking the subject seriously.

post by Marjolein Pijnappels, co-founder of Lakmoeslab and co-owner studio lakmoes
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So 'simple' and I weren't friends. Until a client of ours said: 'If you simplify things and explain things to everyone, you run the risk of not coming across as serious and serious enough. But if something is often misunderstood, it is apparently necessary. I'd rather come across as simplistic, but still achieve the objective.'

Since then I just call a horse a horse. At Studio Lakmoes we try to explain complex stories as simply as possible. We start with the essentials and then build on. 

Embrace simplicity..
Embrace simplicity is surprisingly complicated. People often think that their complicated subject should not be explained too simply. For then it is no longer correct.

Or their audience might think they don't take the subject seriously. 'No Jip and Janneke language', is a Dutch saying, referring to the famous children's book by Annie MG Schmidt, used as a warning by our data-loving clients. When we present a design concept in (too?) plain language, the data-savvy client frowns and offers that some more complicated terms could (should?) be used.

But keep in mind that rarely is the target group an expert: . If they were, they probably wouldn't need an infographic to understand the subject. And yet people find it difficult to say goodbye to professional jargon, as if that is the only correct language with which to explain the subject.

At Studio Lakmoes we therefore start small, with the simplest story, and then build up. By offering information in layers, e.g. with explanation in boxes, explanation behind in-depth buttons and links and in animations by showing information on screen (show, don't tell) you can make a complicated story simple and still share lots of information.

But embrace complexity too!
We strive to explain complicated stories as simply as possible. That does not mean that you can explain everything simply. The world is by definition a complicated place with complex processes. Simplifying everything leads to the loss of crucial information. In that case, we embrace complexity and visualize it as simple as possible.

Simple in that case means that the information is clearly understandable to the recipient – ​​but perhaps not at a glance. Sometimes it is impractical to avoid (visual) complexity altogether. Simple then means starting simple and small, and diving deeper and deeper into a subject.

This can be done very well by offering information in layers: zooming in further from an overview view, or walking through a story step by step.

Gaining understanding takes time
Understanding a complex story requires a greater investment of time from the user (yup, open door). However, our clients often come to us because the complex stories they share are not read or understood – often due to a lack of time on the part of the target audience. They then ask for a product like an infographic so that the information can be picked up very quickly.

But a simple story does not necessarily equate to a short or quick story. Sometimes you need more time to complete a story. The user who spends more time and energy on understanding may also be more likely to remember the information (links to studies on this are welcome!).

In my experience, simple 'at-a-glance' infographics on complex topics are often well rated ('nice, beautiful!' exclaimed colleagues), but do not always achieve the goal.

Explaining something at a glance is irrevocably at the expense of information density and depth. Understanding something complicated takes time. If you could do it quickly, you probably wouldn't need an infographic.

Create simple infographics from complex information

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