4. Purest Beauty: That bird’s got bugs
Sometimes I catch myself looking at things with simplistic beauty like a perfect red cardinal or something and thinking, “Pure and simple beauty just seems so easy.” But, then I remember that underneath those pure colors are hugely complex systems that are supporting life as well as constantly fighting off all sorts of messy bugs and diseases (loads of bird mites, and there are 60 diseases in their droppings, etc.)
The simplest, purest beauty usually holds huge, intricate complexity behind it. So don’t be dismayed if you can’t seem to make something simply beautiful with just a dash of your pen or paintbrush.
You all have heard the story about Thomas Edison making a thousand failed attempts before he came up with the perfect light bulb that we now take for granted because it is so simple.
The minimalistic beauty of the Eames plywood bent chairs came only after the Eames duo (husband and wife) pioneered whole new technologies with bending wood.
I’ve made like 20 prototypes of a bent wood wallet I designed (which will probably now be made of metal because of material constraints) and I still haven’t found one that will be functional and simple enough to produce.
Development costs seem most ridiculous when you see the most simple, beautiful products, I know. But don’t be dismayed if a project is taking longer than it would take to simply draw all the lines, or pound out the notes on the piano, or write that many words into a book. There is glacier of development under the surface of the water which holds up the beautiful little peak that people will see.
And don’t think that because you’re putting so much time into something, it won’t still be better by taking unnecessary things out of it. If it can still be made simpler, and nothing critical of value will be missed, it’s usually the best idea to take stuff out.
Apple is awesome at this. They’ve worked super hard over time to give us what seems like an elegantly simple box that is a pretty doorway to the rest of the world, plus it seems like this little rounded rectangle in our pocket just gets us. But it took them about 5 years to develop the first iPhone released in 2007, and the following 7 years to get it where it’s at today! 12 years to make this little box the pure and simple beauty that it is!
And also if a work of art feels like it comes out flawlessly the first time, don’t assume that it’s genius. I almost never regret having others read something or stepping away from it for a while myself before I give it to the world at large. That will usually shake out the sawdust and show if there’s any genius left.
After saying all this, however, there are those few times that something special happens. It usually happens when I already know a certain craft well enough to recognize when I have hit the ZONE and everything falls into place almost in real time. It happens when the vision of what I want to make is clear and pure. And by the way, if you have found a clear and pure vision of something you want to make, treasure it! It will make everything easier. You’ll know ahead of time which things to cast off, and which directions not to go down. It often corresponds to when you have found ‘your voice.’ Cast off everything that is not you. When you have found that, that is when it is most fun. It is when our seasoned experience crosses over with our natural talent, and a clear vision for a few hours. The more you practice this, the more it will happen.
So, strive, strive, develop, and strive. Don’t dismay when you can’t knock out something that is so simply beautiful the first time. If it were so easy everything we owned would be this way. We have a long time until we get there … or until Apple starts making the rest of the products in the world.