Divine Simplicity

May 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

In my personal Bible study time recently I’ve come across the phrase “divine simplicity.” This isn’t a theological post, but as it pertains to theology and belief, the phrase is defined as:

God without parts. The general idea of divine simplicity can be stated in this way: the being of God is identical to the “attributes” of God. In other words, such characteristics as omnipresence, goodness, truth, eternity, etc. are identical to his being, not qualities that make up his being, nor abstract entities inhering in him as in a substance.

I believe this, as do many Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim philosophical theologians (not to say we all believe the same things by any stretch).

Not to be too mystic or philosophical about the design world, but I think this same idea can apply. On the most basic level, designers should learn to keep it simple. Not to get drawn into the trap of adding just “one more thing” or another effect, or another overlay…just letting simple words or text settle on a simple background.

On a deeper level, the idea of divine simplicity says that you can’t separate God’s attributes from His being. This is a profound beauty when you think about the fact that you can’t separate the wrath of God from the love of God. You can’t separate the judgement of God from the mercy or grace of God. In design terms, you can’t separate your elements (text, background, subtitles, etc) from one another as though they’re meant to operate as independent entities. They’re not.

The next time you’re not sure what to add, maybe you should ask, “what can I take away?” Ask, “how can I simply this while still retaining the emotion and message I’m trying to convey?” The more you do, the more you may just realize that simplicity really is divine.