Creative Thinking: Simple Isn’t

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace: making the complicated simple—awesomely simple—that’s creativity.”
— Charles Mingus

Simplicity_Le_TrefleWhen it comes to communicating your idea to your audience, nothing is so powerful, so provocative—or so compelling—as simplicity.

Sage minds of all ilk—from Walt Whitman to Steve Jobs, from Leonardo da Vinci to Bruce Lee and from (predictably) Frank Lloyd Wright to (surprisingly) Frederic Chopin—have discovered the power of simplicity and dedicated themselves to its’ pursuit.

Simple can also be really funny, as in this TV spot. Simple product. Simple concept. But far from obvious. In 30 seconds, we’re engaged with the characters and immersed in their conflict. And the payoff is as hysterical as it is true.

The ad agency could have just put the product on-screen and told you why you should buy it. Instead, they gave us a gift in the form of a 30-second mini-movie that left us surprised, delighted and knowing in our gut that their product is irreplaceable.

A few ways to get simple…

  • Flip Perspective: Define what is most important to your customer about your product or message. (For example, in the case of Le Trefle, it’s simply having it when you need it.)
  • Refine your Message. Remove all the superlatives and other “fat words.” Cut it down to it’s core, expressed in the fewest words possible… and make sure it addresses what the customer values. (Ex: “With more paper.”)
  • Be Relentless: Edit, refine and revise… strip away all unnecessary copy, visuals and other distractions… distill down to the essence. (Ex: Sometimes, more paper is a good thing.)

Simple is hard. Simple is elusive. Simple is smart. Simple is direct. In fact, simple is stark, naked truth. Simple may be unpretentious but it’s not naïve. Simple is both subtle and bold. Simple is often surprising. Simple is seldom obvious. But simple is always worth it.


Rick Cornish creates communications that inform, influence and inspire… helping organizations increase sales, promote unity and encourage their people to embrace change. Working in video, corporate meetings, event marketing and more; Rick delivers purposeful creative that drives business results and builds stronger brands.


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