Simplicity, says Kenya Hara, creative director of Muji, is a “central aesthetic principle” in Japan and is what differentiates the visual appeal of the East from that of the West.
In an interview for The New York Times looking at the unique design of Japanese bentÅ, Hara provides a comparison of the East and West’s vision of simplicity and further thoughts on Japan’s unique aesthetic.
While Japanese are known for their particular aesthetic sense, I would say we also have an incapacity to see ugliness. How come?
We usually focus fully on what’s right in front of our eyes. We tend to ignore the horrible, especially if it is not an integral part of our personal perspective. We ignore that our cities are a chaotic mess, filled with ugly architecture and nasty signage. And so you have the situation where a Japanese worker will open a beautiful bento box in a stale conference room or on a horrendous, crowded sidewalk.
The three virtues of a programmer, according to Larry Wall (in Programming Perl):
- Laziness The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful, and document what you wrote so you don’t have to answer so many questions about it.
- Impatience The anger you feel when the computer is being lazy. This makes you write programs that don’t just react to your needs, but actually anticipate them. Or at least pretend to.
- Hubris Excessive pride, the sort of thing Zeus zaps you for. Also the quality that makes you write (and maintain) programs that other people won’t want to say bad things about.
According to Philipp Lenssen (of Google Blogoscoped), good programmers are not just lazy, but dumb, too.
This also puts me in mind of Jason’s thoughts on simplicity (via Kottke) as his company, 37signals, approaches its 10th anniversary.
I’m reminded of what we’ve always known to be true: simpler is better, clarity is king, complexity is often man-made, and doing the right thing is the right way to do things.