Use simple tools

The tools we use to create and communicate should be so easy to use we rarely ever think about them. With simple tools we naturally focus on what the tool allows us to do.

The famous typography designer Matthew Carter has said that when you read you should not see the letters on the page, you should see through the type to the message. If printed type was the tool we’ve used to communicate for thousands of years, today we do our jobs using mobile electronics, software user interfaces, rapid prototyping devices, and so on.

And yet, as I write this in 2006, I still can’t use my computer to make an appointment with someone working for a different company and know that the meeting will appear on both our calendars. I may spend time trying, but I know this everyday task is still completed more easily (and with more accuracy) if I simply call the other person and schedule the appointment over the phone.

If your calendar software makes it difficult to schedule a meeting, use something simpler. If it isn’t obvious how to use the functions of your mobile device, get something easier. These tools should be just as transparent as the type you’re looking at now. Communicating and executing our ideas is too important to let technology get in the way.

Robust tools are seductive, but their complexity quickly results in diminishing returns. Adopt tools with as many features as you need, and no more. Usually a few essential features will enable you to do many things well.

Try it now
As you go through your days, write down a list of every tool you use to create and communicate. Mark those that are cumbersome, and find an easier replacement for each cumbersome tool. Do the same with your team.

1 comment

  1. This is something I’ve been grappling with for sometime now…how do I (seamlessly) share my calendar with my business partner or my regular clients. Further complicating this is my preference in using my mobile phone for calendaring.

    In my exploration I’ve come across two tools that show promise: and that allow me to halfway solve this problem. The real innovation would be to create a combination between the two.


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