Creative Myths #7
“Less Is More”
While completely true in some applications, this statement is far from a universal axiom. Perhaps they are “words to live by” in cases of clutter or complication, but not always the remedy for a problem.
Lately, I have been looking at everything through a lens I’ll call “simplify.” Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not simplifying everything. I’m just looking at everything through that lens as a means to identify what NEEDS to be simplified. Logical conclusion: some things just don’t need to be simplified.
Can we please look at this thing logically? In any other application, you would be crazy to believe the statement.
If your song only has two chords, don’t even think about it.
If your design is already black and white, you would take minimalist to whole new level and your message would remain a mystery.
Could you ever apply this to your bank account? No. Less is less. More is more. Always.
Could you apply this to quality time with loved ones? No. Less is less. More is more. Always.
This list could go on and on.
Taken at face value, “less is more” is philosophical double-speak. They sound like the words of a genius until you actually think about it. Unless it’s opposite day, in which case it’s a winner.
The phrase also raises the question “Less is more what?”
Here’s what I think: this phrase would serve everyone much better if it were in the form of a question. It should go something like “Is less __________more _________?”Fill in the first blank with the source of clutter or convolution, and then fill in the last blank with words like “effective”, “powerful”, or “appropriate.” Examples: “Is less color more effective?” “Is less wording more powerful?”
There is also another really important element to all of this. Less of something only works if you still have the correct somethings left. Fewer notes in a melody only work if they make sense together and are easy to learn or remember. Fewer words only make sense if they communicate your message effectively to the reader.
The point is to think, analyze and aim for what is most effective in creative endeavors. Sometimes less is the right answer, sometimes it’s not. Just don’t assume and start hacking away to achieve your goal unless you know that “less is more” for that particular project.
“Less is more” is a creative myth… more or less.