This is part of a series looking at John Maeda’s ten Laws of Simplicity.
“Simplicity and complexity need each other.”
If everything was simple, nothing would be simple. We appreciate simplicity only because we can compare it to complexity. The iPod and Google, ever the popular examples of simplicity, would not have succeeded if there weren’t some pretty bad (read: complex) competition.
Like many opposites, simple and complex aren’t that different. Many times, the simple thing just disguises very complex things going on behind the scenes. Millions of non-programmers type words into search engines every day. These same people have no idea about what it takes to create an index that is able to return results in a fraction of a second.
In the first law, we learned about thoughtful reduction. In that process, we consider what is most important. Then we highlight those things. Similarly, organizing is about deciding what groups are important and what they should contain. If everything is important, nothing is. The law of differences acknowledges that in order to achieve simplicity, we must have complexity.