Commander Mark Divine, SealFit, 2011.
While there is nothing easy about achieving shibumi, if taken together as a cohesive set of design principles, these seven Zen principles can at least put you on the right path. The goal is not to attempt to incorporate every Zen principle into a given design, but rather select those aligned to your goals and use them to guide and inform your efforts. What sets shibumi apart as a powerful design ideal is the unique combination of surprising impact and uncommon simplicity. At the core of this blend, and what all Zen principles have in common, is the element of subtraction. “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Refrain from adding what is not absolutely necessary in the first place. Emphasizes restraint, exclusion, and omission. The goal is to present something that both appears spare and imparts a sense of focus and clarity. In the world of mobile apps, Hear is a great example.
Eliminate what doesn’t matter to make more room for what does. Beauty and utility need not be overstated, overly decorative, or fanciful. The overall effect is fresh, clean, and neat. “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Incorporate naturally occurring patterns and rhythms into your design. The goal of shizen is to strike a balance between being “of nature” yet distinct from it-to be viewed as being without pretense or artiﬁce, while seeming intentional rather than accidental or haphazard. Incorporate naturally occurring patterns and rhythms into your design.
Limit information just enough to pique curiosity and leave something to the imagination. The principle of yugen captures the Zen view that precision and ﬁniteness are at odds with nature, implying stagnation and loss of life, and that the power of suggestion is often stronger than that of full disclosure. Leaving something to the imagination piques our curiosity and can move us to action.
Leave room for others to cocreate with you; provide a platform for open innovation. The goal of fukinsei is to convey the symmetry of the natural world through clearly asymmetrical and incomplete renderings. The effect is that the viewer supplies the missing symmetry and participates in the creative act.
BREAK FROM ROUTINE
An interruptive “break” is an important part of any breakthrough design. Imagine that you get a ﬂat tire while you’re driving. If you’re normal, you curse out loud. That curse signals a break from the ordinary, which, being creatures of habit, we don’t much care for. But now suddenly you’re wide awake, with senses on high alert, and you’re aware of a problem requiring your full attention to solve. Suddenly everything you normally take for granted becomes vitally important: How the car handles, the shoulder of the road, safe spots to pull over, trafﬁc around you, tire-changing tools in your trunk, immediate avenues for help. These are all the resources you need for a creative solution. They were there all along, but it was the break that brought them to your attention.
Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing. The principle of seijaku deals with the actual content of datsuzoku. To the Zen practitioner, it is in states of active calm, tranquility, solitude, and quietude that we ﬁnd the essence of creative energy.