This website is now archived. While it is fully functioning, I no longer maintain it and comments are turned off on most posts. Please visit the updated

Simplicity, Marmite, and ‘Getting Real’ with Don Norman

Marmite’s high zinc content could be the catalyst that helps solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, or so Edward de Bono suggested to the UK’s Foreign Office back in 2000. The so-called reasoning behind this is that on both sides of the conflict unleavened bread is a staple foodstuff – a staple foodstuff that’s considerably lacking in zinc; a deficiency of which can cause aggression.

This was my most recent introduction to Edward de Bono; the father of ‘thinking outside the box’, and the pioneer of ‘lateral thinking‘: a creative problem-solving technique that involves looking at a given situation from unexpected – and often unusual – angles.

I was first introduced to de Bono in university when his theory of ‘thinking hats‘ was introduced to us as a way to acquaint us with parallel thinking to expand the way we look at information systems. It was an interesting 10 minutes, but after that I had completely forgotten about these techniques ’til now, when I happened upon de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats when brainstorming for books to add to my 2008 reading list.

Reading more about de Bono I find that in another of his books – Simplicityhe argues that the subject of simplicity should be taught in schools as a defining characteristic of quality, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Look at the themes running through the design of most of the successful Web 2.0 (and 1.0) companies and you’ll see that simplicity and usability are at the forefront of every design decision. Look at the design of really great ‘real-world’ objects – simple, right?

Of course, simplicity isn’t everything, and it depends somewhat on your definition of the term. To me simplicity is about delivering more from less by focusing on what’s important to the end-user: a simple – yet effective – strategy which appears to be midway between ‘Getting Real‘ and Don Norman‘s idea of user-centered design.

So, Six Thinking Hats and The Design/Psychology of Everyday Things are on my to-read list (I’ve only read extensive excerpts of the latter) – if I hadn’t already read all of it, Getting Real would be too. I guess all that’s left to ask now is; what does Simplicity/Usability mean to you, and could Marmite bring peace to the Middle Yeast? It’s definitely food for though. (Puns – unfortunately – intended. Sorry.)