Here's a thumbs up to Don Norman's (for a discussion on complex v. simple software applications and bootstrapping click thru to Joel Spolsky's discussion on simplicity) New book, Living with Complexity. Business Week has named named him one of the world’s most influential designers. "He has been both a professor and an executive: he was Vice President of Advanced Technology at Apple; his company, the Nielsen Norman Group, helps companies produce human-centered products and services; he has been on the faculty at Harvard, the University of California, San Diego, Northwestern University, and KAIST, in South Korea. He is the author of many books, including The Design of Everyday Things, The Invisible Computer (MIT Press, 1998), Emotional Design."
This is a worthwhile read. Personally, I've always said that simplicity is more difficult than complexity. It demands an elegance in design that few are able to achieve. But Norman takes a different and compelling view, namely that complexity is good and that simplicity is often times misleading - however even the complex needs to be understandable and meanignful in whatever context such complexity appears:
Norman gives us a crash course in the virtues of complexity. But even such simple things as salt and pepper shakers, doors, and light switches become complicated when we have to deal with many of them, each somewhat different. Managing complexity, says Norman, is a partnership. Designers have to produce things that tame complexity. But we too have to do our part: we have to take the time to learn the structure and practice the skills. This is how we mastered reading and writing, driving a car, and playing sports, and this is how we can master our complex tools.