Keep it simple, keep it clean

By Alejandro Bruna, Universidad Católica de Chile/SND

The Centro Cultural Borges is now less flooded by foreigners speaking English. Sure, there’s the odd tourist here and there, but nothing compared to the massive flow of “americanos” who were there from September 24-26. And sure, the 2009 workshop is over and done with, but there’s still plenty to think about and a lot to apply to one’s work.

How can you sum up three days of visual and graphic information? The whole experience was exhaustive and inspirational, with top designers, journalists and photographers giving you an inside perspective of the industry. However, it would be pointless to synthesize what they said, and not because what they said was useless. All of it was a priceless and valuable lesson to all the students who attended the student program, and to all the South Americans who were finally able to be physically in one of the SND seminars. It was, in fact, all very useful, but the key lesson is not what they said, but what we will apply to what we do and how we do it.

Nigel Holmes said it, and plenty of other information designers said it as well: keep it simple, keep it clean. “Simplification means getting rid of the unnecessary and letting the necessary speak”, explained Holmes in his opening conference. And that’s true, sure enough, but it’s not the eye opening mantra for most designers. Let’s face it: most of us already have that line in our heads. Karl Gude said it, Alberto Cairo implied it, James de Vries and John Grimwade showed it to us. They all did, and it wasn’t a critical seminar, but an inspirational one.

It’s much more than white space and dealing with simplification. It’s about the future and adapting to change, understanding the numbers of the industry and realizing that simplicity, cleanliness comes from going back to the primal way of design: the hand. The sketchbook. It means taking simple chances and keeping a clean and forward way of thinking on the matter.

Pablo Corral said it best: the technology is there, sure enough, but there’s something deeper. Corral was, of course, linking everything to photography, but design also has a language and poetry that must be dealt with subtlety, simplicity and, of course, cleanliness. All of this in order to achieve balance, to have a neat design. One must keep it simple, not only on paper for information’s sake. You see, even after all that these amazing designers have done, there’s still simplicity at heart. They believe in what they do, they inspire us, students, professionals, teachers, to do better. They keep it simple. They keep it clean; that’s how they do it, and how we should do it. Keep it simple. Keep it clean.