Avoid Extremes

In avoiding one sort of fault fools rush into its opposite.


You set out to create a work that is sublime, and it becomes over-ornate; the result is bombastic and lapses into confusion. Try to make a building simple, and the result is trivial and entirely wanting in dignity. Set out to please, introduce variety into every part, deck it with flowers; you build a house composed of parts that are discordant and out of place.

Germain Boffrand

It’s the same with design. When you have a work that appears too simple, it’s too easy to go too far in the opposite direction and create a bloated monstrosity. Even if you don’t go that far, you’re in danger of introducing baggage merely for the sake of avoiding plainness. It goes the other way: cut out too much and you arrive at an unusable design. Things that were useful are now hidden away, forcing people to do more work to get to them.

If your design suffers from one extreme, don’t rush straight into its opposite. Don’t hide those links just to achieve a more minimalist look and don’t decorate just to fill that empty space. I see many mobile sites that take too much away from the original making the mobile version useless, or magazines and blogs that fill the page with so many links that I have to use services like Readability to get to the content. Be content with what works lest you ruin it by pushing it to an extreme.

February 2012