Saturday, September 1, 2012
The single most important principle I learned from my long stint in advertising is KISS.
Just a bit of a background: KISS is an acronym for the design principle first verbalized by Kelly Johnson, “Keep it simple, Stupid!” Through the years, KISS gave birth to many variations: Keep It Simple, Sir; Keep It Simple or be Stupid; Keep it Simple and Straightforward; and Keep it simple and sincere.
The KISS principle: the most complex systems/concepts can readily be understood if they are kept simple. Once a wordsmith in advertising (and a caretaker of words today), my take on KISS then was, “Keep It short and Simple.”
Short—because target audiences (the people for whom we create ads) are busy, uninterested beings who don't have all the time in the world to read, much less be lured by too many words and pictures.
Simple—for exactly the same reason as short. Our target audiences' lives are complicated enough, crammed enough, and confused enough.
When asked, I explain my former job thus: summarizing volumes of research data into 30 seconds of attractive words (45 at the most).
Every word was important, so we had to choose only those that were easiest to understand:
“stun” instead of “discombobulate;”
“crush” instead of “annihilate.”
It has since become a habit or a way of life for me to simplify everything. I always try to explain a complex concept with minimal words or a stick diagram.
What this entails, however, is something that needs long, hard work: thorough appreciation of the concept. Understanding is the hard part. Only after that is done can one truly explain it to others in the simplest of terms or ways possible.
For instance, the simplest way I could explain grammar to my students is via one word: rules.
You obey the rules, you have good grammar. You disobey them, you have poor grammar—and the danger of being misunderstood.
The response I get is, “Aaaahh.” Also the shortest and simplest form of showing understanding.
Einstein is right. I couldn't have said it better.
Well, he's the genius. I am, as someone prominent said recently, “only a blogger.”
I take no offense; I am really just a blogger practicing the principle of KISS, and living a simple life that is short on everything but grace.