Design is about solving problems. And great design solves problems elegantly – utilizing as few, highly leveraged elements as possible.

The catch is, for everything you keep, there are far more things you must give up. You can’t have it all. Trade offs must be made, and embedded in each is a choice. A choice about something being more important than something else. So, how do you know what’s important and what isn’t?

You must understand the problem. Deeply and completely. Who is this for? Why do they need it? How are they doing this today? What can’t they live without? This is where the most amount of energy and time should be spent, yet this is where assumptions and dogma tend to trump exploration and deconstruction.

Glossing over this part of the process is dangerous. You’ll build on a foundation of assumptions. This leads to solutions that, while possibly well executed, miss the mark. In contrast, when you dig deep and break down the problem to its most essential, you can then build from bedrock. And build what’s actually necessary. All your energy is focused on improving the small set of things that actually matter. Creating the opportunity for an experience that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s no surprise elegant designs are often simple. When you deeply understand the problem you build what is absolutely critical. It turns out, what’s critical is often quite a small set of things.