Measuring Elegance as Effective Complexity

In this paper titled “Simple as it can be, but not simpler: Perceived elegance as effective complexity in Interface Design” and that has received a best paper award at the 2020 AMCIS conference, we propose and test a method to measure the elegance of an interface (the paper and the presentation are both accessible at this link).

A balance designed by Dieter Rams for Braun: this design is elegant because its unusual and intriguing shape does make the act of weighing something more exciting but also surprisingly simple (image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons, By w/d/h, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9409146.

Our publications and presentations

Iandoli, L., Piantedosi, L., Salado, A., & Zollo, G. (2018). Elegance as complexity reduction in systems designComplexity2018.

Salado, A., Iandoli, L., & Zollo, G. (2016, July). Painting systems: from art to systems architecting. In INCOSE International Symposium (Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 773-787).

Iandoli, L., Zollo, G. (2019), Complessità del mondo e necessità dell’arte, In: Capucci, P.L and Simoni, S., Arte e complessità, Noemi edizioni

Iandoli, L., Zollo, G. (2018), The Age of Aesthetics, presentation at Aalto University Venture program

Iandoli, L., Zollo, G. (2018), Think as an artist: Creativity for the Design of effective products and service, ICSB Certificates, https://icsbglobal.org/c-i-certificate/

The poetry of coffeemaking: the importance of Fluency in Design

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you 
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

(Elton John, Candle in the wind – on the right a 1961 portrait of Marylin Monroe by Henry Cartier Bresson)

You may have recognized from these few verses the famous song that Elton John dedicated to Marylin Monroe’s memory. Assuming you know the song, let’s do an experiment.

Think as an Artist: the Art of Empathy in new product Design

This two-day workshop organised with the support of Alan Advantage is dedicated to managers, entrepreneurs, designers, and visual communication professionals who want to develop an empathic approach to the development of new products and content. Empathy is introduced through the analysis of how users deal with complexity. We use Art and Design masterpieces to illustrate how aesthetic reasoning helps to handle complexity. Finally we provide participants with methods on how to achieve good complexity through labs and site visits in which we apply lessons from painting, photography, and storytelling to interface design.

Defining elegance

The attribute elegant is often associated with original as well as parsimonious information representation as in “elegant theory”. In all these cases, elegance pertains to a theory’s ability to explain more with less rules and assumptions. For Instance, the Copernican theory that puts the sun at the center of the solar system is more elegant than the Ptolemaic one in which the Earth is at the center.

Mars, Earth, and Sun orbits as represented in the Copernican VS Ptolemaic systems – orbits drawn as circles and Martian year rounded to 2 times Earth’s year to create a smooth animation (By user: cleonis,wikipedia) –

Lost in translation: the discovery of the Amazon River

by Giuseppe Zollo

An literal journey into complexity began on December 26, 1541. On that day Francisco de Orellana left Gonzalo Pizarro’s expedition stuck in the Peruvian forest and with sixty men descended the Coca River in search of food. He won’t ever come back. Following the course of Coca and Napo rivers, Orellana reached an immense expanse of water. It was the Amazon River, which the expedition will follow for eight months up to the river’s mouth on improvised boats.

Course: The art of simplicity

This course offers an alternative and multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of complex systems that is complementary to traditional systems engineering and product design. The pedagogic approach blends theories from cognitive science, aesthetics and art, behavioral economics, and design thinking with experiential learning based on the analysis of visual art masterpieces through museum visits, visual arts labs, and writing workshops.

Full immersion format for graduate students and professionals in the fields of Engineering, Architecture and Management Science

Creativity labs, workshops and site visits

Previous editions delivered at Aalto University (Finland), Stevens Institute of Technology (USA), St John’s University (USA), University of Naples Federico II (Italy)

We need some (effective) complexity

Aesthetic pleasure is somehow related to the recognition of order. But what kind of order do we look for? And how much order do we need? Research on aesthetic appreciation shows that we tend to prefer combinations of stimuli that are both familiar and novel. Conversely, we can experience easily that situations in which either the familiar or the novel are predominating tend to be unpleasant, although for different reasons.

Elegant Decisions

Aesthetic decision making is immediately visible in the process of artistic creation. In this short movie, Monet is making an impressive amount of micro-decisions in the act of capturing the fleeting reflections of light over waterlilies in a pond. These decisions are aesthetic not only because they are about the making of an artistic product, but because the artist grounds them on the empirical perception of light and color. The sensory flow, mediated by what the artist is trying to achieve and by his representation of the world, are a key ingredient in determining where the next brushstroke is going to fall. The word aesthetics, in fact, means “what pertains to the senses.”