“Less is More” is Bullshit 06 Oct 2005

96 comments Latest by Ian Crawford

“Less is More” implies that more is better. It’s not. Less is less. Less is just right. Less is better.

96 comments so far (Jump to latest)

dansays 06 Oct 05

Ummm… Jason? “Less is more” *does* mean less is better.

sb 06 Oct 05

so by that blanket statement, you’d rather have less money? or is this aimed at software in particular?

robb monn 06 Oct 05

i’d rather be able to get by on less money and have less money. burning through enough cash to feed 300 starving children a month to keep a roof under my head is not my idea of A Good Thing.

So, yeah, less is less is true with money also.

Brandon 06 Oct 05

I absolutely love how somebody as respected as 37signals.com isn’t afraid to say “bullshit” and the like. They are just words, however descriptive.

And so many people freak out when they hear them.

I love you, 37signals.

Jason 06 Oct 05

Funny

Matt 06 Oct 05

Less is More in the pursuit of resources (money) is a good thing. How you use that money is another scenario where you can again, apply the Less is More principle, getting by on less means more for charity.

The point being you should maximize profit by minimizing waste so you put yourself in the position of wisely using the fruit of your labor instead of scrounging for fruit.

Britt 06 Oct 05

Less is more (work, fun, engaging, thoughtful…)

Sean 06 Oct 05

Bullshit, robb. I agree that being able to live on less is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you should make less. Make more then use it to help people. Like Carnegie, for instance.

Elliott Rosenthal 06 Oct 05

Erm, yeah…….great.

Sound like the rambling of a madman high on GUI’s.

Fair enough.

Kendall 06 Oct 05

Who is this Less guy anyway? I’ve been hearing so much about him…

misuba 06 Oct 05

How about, “less is more less than more.”

Adrian 06 Oct 05

“Less is better” is also bullshit unless that amount is enough. If it isn’t, it’s worse than “more”.

If you’re using software you can (painfully) tolerate extraneous features but you can’t make essential missing components appear by wishing they existed.

If you have too much money, you can choose give it away. If you have too little, you have no choice but to starve.

So forget less and more. Think Occam’s Razor. Think enough. Enough for this purpose. Enough for these people. For the use cases we’re supporting. And everyone and everything else can go hang, because their plaintive feature requests are on the Not To Do List. If you value your sanity, this needs to be public. (Like all humans, you can reserve the right to change your mind.)

Give’m the URLs of your bloatware competitors who are trying to build the One True System and get on with doing the best you can for the people you’ve chosen to work for.

This is how you learn to stop worrying and start enjoying writing software again.

pete 06 Oct 05

sorry to say this Jason, but your post is pretty vapid. Maybe drinking too much of your own Kool-Aid?

“make half a product, not a half-assed project” implies that a half product is the full ass. It’s not. Half is half. Half is just right. Half is better.

Available for any and all web 2.0 conferences.

Adrian L. 06 Oct 05

Enough is enough.

Hrush 06 Oct 05

I thought long and hard about this very recently after a massive argument with a friend.

Jason is right, “Less is more” is bullshit because it implies that we’re still actually going after “more.”

My own solution to it was a completely different state, which I believe, communicates the point more effectively:

More from less

Hrush 06 Oct 05

I thought long and hard about this very recently after a massive argument with a friend.

Jason is right, “Less is more” is bullshit because it implies that we’re still actually going after “more.”

My own solution to it was a completely different statement, which I believe, communicates the point more effectively:

More from less

Art Wells 06 Oct 05

I think only just right is just right. More is less than the goal, and less is less than the goal. I think I agree with the spirit of what you say, except I don’t know what “less is better” could mean. If it’s less than the goal is it better? Isn’t nothing less than less and therefore best?

It’s best to stay away from cliches altogether when you want to express a new idea. They will only pollute your thinking.

Tom 06 Oct 05

Jason, time for you to take a day off. :)

endekks 06 Oct 05

“Less is more” does not have to be bullshit. Your very software development model is based on the principle. You have less features because you want to be more effective or more efficient or more focused - all of which you feel to be better qualities.

The fact that both the words “less” and “more” are being applied to some (potential) unknown variable means that it doesn’t have to be something tangible - for either one of the words. Either can be applies to something abstract, like the qualities I listed earlier.

Also, the fact that you stated that less is better than more because less is just right. That’s an opinion. “Less is just right.” Really, so less sex is just right? Less hours of vacation is just right? Less hair on your head is just right? “Less” can be used in a variety of ways, just as “more” can.

Besides, this is all just semantics - and there is nothing definitive in discussions revolving around semantics, as not everyone will agree on meanings.

Nigel Mellish 06 Oct 05

How about this - how about not taking an axiom out of context? How it’s used above (in the money post) is not at all applicable to how del Sarto instituted the phrase, nor is it relevant to when Van Der Rohe made it an actual axiom as applied to design. Do you think that he meant for it to be applied universally, like folks tend to try to do with the theory of relativity?

Of course not - I certainly wouldn’t want to tell Mies that Less cigar smoking is more, or fewer floors on the skyscraper was more…

RE: the saying implies more is better. Taken literally, Jason is correct, but I wouldn’t get too worked up - I think it was just a clever way for him to suggest that less is better, justifying the modernist movement.

Adrian 06 Oct 05

Mies also said, “God is in the details.”

I’m not a believer, but I love that one.

If you’re going to have less, you’d better make sure you get the quality right, because you’re not going to go anywhere on the quantity.

mike swimm 06 Oct 05

We could argue about this forever because it is a lousy saying.

Someone probably said it once in a situation were is was valid, and since it rolls nicely off the tongue it has stuck around.

In my opinion it needs to be replaced.
I suggest “Elegant is Ideal”.

Brad 06 Oct 05

enough is enough

Brian Levy 06 Oct 05

Less beer is neither more nor better.

Reuben Whitehouse 06 Oct 05

Do more with less - Howzat? This is my approach to cooking in order to reduce washing up :o)

Lars Fischer 06 Oct 05

Less validation? Like the ability to add multiple message categories with the same name in Bootcamp?

Les 06 Oct 05

Les is more.

Don Wilson 06 Oct 05

“more” as in quality, not quantity.

Don Wilson 06 Oct 05

“They are just words, however descriptive.”

And yet you still treat them as bad words but in a new light and pour on the emotions.

Rob Cameron 06 Oct 05

Is this anything like the observation my dad had about the statment “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? He always thought that should say “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” He always read the statement as “If it sounds too go to be true, it probably *is* true.”

Does this have anything to do with that? Because I always took “less is more” to mean, in excellent grammar, “less is more better.” Not that “less is more” and “less is better,” therefore “more is better.” The saying is just catchy because it sounds like a contradiction. But really it’s not. Sort of.

Jamie 06 Oct 05

Less is More is Horseshit.

One of many Davids 06 Oct 05

In the unix world, less really is more. I’ve even heard that less somehow better, so I guess you’re right.

O, wait, you were just rambling. Sorry, continue…

Ron 06 Oct 05

The more you know
The less you need.

Gord 06 Oct 05

That’s it. This blog is now bullshit. Time to unsubscribe.

pete 06 Oct 05

now that this blog is null and void. I’ll just troll:


unix is better than windows because it has a faster cpu.

apple is the best though cause they have more color gradients in their interface and they install a better internet installed on their computers.

Also, I hear 37 signals is designing its own OS. No configuration files or anything. In fact every user has the same login/pass so that the process is simpler.

flash is bad.

jules 06 Oct 05

somedays, don’t ya just wish you hadn’t hit ‘submit’ on the ole’ blog post?

William Smith 06 Oct 05

Less is more, unless you have a business to run. Then of course this does not count. If less is more, than there is no competitive barrier, therefore you are vulnerable to lower cost competitors. What happens when Goggle releases a Basecamp clone with 80% of the features for free? Is less better than? Will your customers leave your service because the cost is less, or will your customers stay because then want “more” features?

Easy to say less is more, until you start losing customers

jules 06 Oct 05

ummm, isn’t “better” just a linguistic shortcut that means “more good”

think about it

Alex Bunardzic 06 Oct 05

Jason wrote:

“Less is better”

No, Worse is better!

Jeff Croft 06 Oct 05

One day I hope to be able to elicit 40 comments from such a mindless post, too. :)

less nessman 06 Oct 05

Is this going to be a chapter in your book?

Don Schenck 06 Oct 05

EF Schumacher would be proud.

Don Schenck 06 Oct 05

Lars Fischer said “Bootcamp” …

… I just had a flashback!

“Hey Slick! … your momma send you all the way down here just to piss me off?”

ARGH!

evan 06 Oct 05

“Less is More” implies that more is better.

huh? might want to re-read that line there…

*smacks head

chris 06 Oct 05

this is so dumb… like most of 37S stuff.

Less is only better for you because you make half a half assed project that your fanboys signup for know matter how useless it is (to-da list… open notepad ffs).

Dan Boland 06 Oct 05

Less is more implies that less is better.

Hrush 06 Oct 05

Less procrastinating, more work.

Urbanchords 06 Oct 05

“Less is a bore” - Robert Venturi

Stephen Lewis 06 Oct 05

I sincerely hope this is a throwaway statement, intended to get people arguing over nothing.

If it is, congratulations Jason. If it isn’t, you’re *really* missing the original point of that statement (regardless of how it has been misinterpreted since; see above for examples).

“Less is more” was the maxim of (among others) Mies Van Der Rohe, and was meant to signify a move away from purely decorative or “unecessary” embellishments, in the design of furniture and _products_ in particular.

The implication is not, as Jason originally stated, that “more” is “better”, or the ultimate goal. The statement refers to the belief that _more can be achieved with less through the elimination of extraneous or pointless elements_.

Which is a philosophy I would’ve thought 37 Signals would approve of wholeheartedly.

frank 06 Oct 05

Have you been hitting the sherry again Jason?

wydońia suqqit 06 Oct 05

Blog is God spelled backwards.

ste 06 Oct 05

“And the more I see / the more I know /
The more I know / the less I understand.”

(Paul Weller)

Bob 06 Oct 05

Just enough is more: http://www.kottke.org/02/05/just-enough-is-more

Curtman 06 Oct 05

As a graphic designer I’ve always believed “just enough is more”.

However, if less is Les then Les is a guy in my carpool.

Swati 06 Oct 05

He he…interesting how you derived that. “Less is more” does tend to imply that more is better. It should be less is better.

Turnip 06 Oct 05

That’s just being pedantic.

Pete Cashmore 06 Oct 05

According to Moore’s Law, more is exponentially more. I don’t know anyone called Les, so I guess Les is less important to me than Moore. But if I did, Les would be more important than Moore, since I would know more about Les.

In conclusion: Les is not Moore.

read it 06 Oct 05

carnegie helps people? you ignorant piece of shiat agh

Mike 06 Oct 05

I cannot believe 59 people commented on something like this. The irony that there is this many comments to a subject entitled “less is more.” It says it all, why say more? I guess, now I am guilty too. :-)

Josh Petersen 06 Oct 05

Less bullshit would be better.

matthew mcglynn 07 Oct 05

Jason’s “Less is More” presentation at Web 2.0 kicked more ass than anything else I heard there today. Oops, I mean less ass, I guess? Anyway here are my notes (corrections appreciated): http://debris.com/journal/1366

Michael Ward 07 Oct 05

Most people think that more=better, so: “less [than usual] is [better, which is the usual interpretation of] more”.

Etienne 07 Oct 05

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler!” - Albert Einstein…

Jens Meiert (of UITest.com) 07 Oct 05

Less is more, as both terms do not refer to the same subject. E.g., less disturbance is more ease.

Satya 07 Oct 05

LOL… “less is better” didn’t sound catchy that time.

Kevin 07 Oct 05

Less makes life boring, and who wants to be bored?
I guess less gives us all more time to blog about being bored.

jean zaque 07 Oct 05

there’s not really much to say after the first comment.

dtrain 07 Oct 05

Please kill me now.

Glenn Davies 07 Oct 05

Less is not always better. Anorexia literally means ‘less than enough’ as in body weight. Therefore, having less than enough of anything is not more or better or best. The secret would be truly understanding what is needed. I got it…

Balance is more.

indi r. gumby 07 Oct 05

oo-aaar! My brain hurts!

everyone 07 Oct 05

how about some more (using its original meaning) from DHH..or Matt

John 07 Oct 05

Less is more or less more

nullbit 08 Oct 05

You’re supposed to flip the context for it to work:

Less [bloat] is more [refinement]

Benson 09 Oct 05

From my understanding, the phrase “Less is more” comes from the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s. More specifically by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to describe his aesthetic tactics of flattening and emphasizing the building’s frame, eliminating interior walls and adopting an open plan, and reducing the structure to a strong, transparent, elegant skin. In essence creating a minimalistic space with more function.

I believe its more the people who adopt and abuse the phrase today that’s the problem, not the original meaning. “Less is more” is not semantics or bullshite, but inappropriately used in all design related fields without much thinking.

RICKIE 12 Oct 05

I think what he was trying to say was that by having enough,and having to make do with LESS he was able to appreciate the little he had, MORE

sian 29 Oct 05

‘less is more’ just has a better ring to it…’less it better’ would never have caught on… i think we all know what Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was getting at don’t we…not worth getting all worked up about now is it

ivor 25 Nov 05

Examples of ‘less is more’ - the Google home page, a haiku poem, an iPod.

Examples of ‘more is less’ - the Windows operating system, super-sized junk food meals, television.

skoti 03 Dec 05

it’s unfortunate that so many people have thrown there two cents in just because of a catchy fraise.
what is this the apprentice you’re fired bullshit

it proves that there is nothing but jealousy among the truly inspired. what intrigues you makes you oppressed.
that you don’t either have the same or equal talent.

Les has brought us nothing but joy in his muzick.
and put no-one down in the process.
but being original comes with consequences because we have to read about the jealousy. The unrelenting thievery in the music industry. Because you fools create it.
Can’t you just be happy for Les?
we only get 100 years on this beautiful cyan terra firma.
and this is how you troglodites choose to live it , by ridicule.
let me guess you all live in NYC paying 7 grand on an apartment the size of a tin can and you have the smell of garbage when you enter the streets of Manhattan.
bying artwork that looks like someone puked on a finely stretched canvas.
so you steal whats not yours to pay you’re bills
I laugh @ you for you’re troubles.
God bless you less thorn.
don’t worry less there just children who will never know what they wanna be when they grow up.
and I emphasize wanna be
the reason for jealousy is that they can’t contemplate the the almighty key to unlock the door of supreme sound. The uplifting symmetry of blissful frequency.

when my animated movie is complete I WILL hire less for the score.
because so many of you lack talent.
the person who designed this site is a fruitless loser who has no self esteem and will never live up to the ranks of thorn nor I in the vast accomplishments we possess.
and last but not less,
anyone who continues this blog is jealous and there for proving my point.

END of post .

jo 04 Dec 05

I would like to invest in your movie. You are obviously a
person of great intellect and uncanny insight into the
human condition. The carefully argued logic in your
words would put Aristotle to shame. Fantastic! Please
send me more information.

skoti 05 Dec 05

Another satisfied customer

pingu 11 Dec 05

‘more’ is a Unix utility to paginate output.
‘less’ is a Linux utility to do likewise.
Therefore, ‘less’ is ‘more.
What’s all the fuss about?

Steph 03 Mar 06

Wow less is more is refering to the statement by Ludwig Mies Von Der Rohe. It defines the idea that by having a simple, less complex building for example, its initial idea is more beautiful than a home or building htat is done up!

Lates all

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 30 Mar 06

How did the topic of software even come up…

I have to just say thank you for Steph for finally saying something appropriate. Its about a purity of form in harmony with structure and function. Someone please look up Crown Hall…

Just putting it out there…. Robert Venturi says “More is not Less” and “Less is a Bore”…. Think about that

Peace

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 30 Mar 06

How did the topic of software even come up…

I have to just say thank you for Steph for finally saying something appropriate. Its about a purity of form in harmony with structure and function. Someone please look up Crown Hall…

Just putting it out there…. Robert Venturi says “More is not Less” and “Less is a Bore”…. Think about that

Peace

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

I have gotta get props to my man Mies, although you posted twice…..

I dont think less is more… but its ok…. quite contradictory … yet somewhat complex. You really have to analyze the juxtaposition of the words. less has a superadjacency with the word more. Is this better? I dont know….. read my book.

peacccee outta biatch

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

I have gotta get props to my man Mies, although you posted twice…..

I dont think less is more… but its ok…. quite contradictory … yet somewhat complex. You really have to analyze the juxtaposition of the words. less has a superadjacency with the word more. Is this better? I dont know….. read my book.

peacccee outta biatch

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

I have gotta get props to my man Mies, although you posted twice…..

I dont think less is more… but its ok…. quite contradictory … yet somewhat complex. You really have to analyze the juxtaposition of the words. less has a superadjacency with the word more. Is this better? I dont know….. read my book.

peacccee outta biatch

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

I have gotta get props to my man Mies, although you posted twice…..

I dont think less is more… but its ok…. quite contradictory … yet somewhat complex. You really have to analyze the juxtaposition of the words. less has a superadjacency with the word more. Is this better? I dont know….. read my book.

peacccee outta biatch

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 30 Mar 06

You self promoting wash-up… how dare you call me your man…one time

Less is for sure more… and your book sucks…
Your not even a good architect… Someone look up his mom’s house…. awful… You actually put in a “Nowhere Stair”… It actually goes nowhere and you gave it that name in your own book… Who does that?!? You design three houses that look the same…. The first two where rejected by the clients and the third you gave to your mother… I bet she said no too…. Your FDR memorial got denied and you built a crack house and called it The GUild House… Look it up, all true

So please read his book…. no wait here is a sample…
“Yamasaki’s project for The World Trade Center in New York even more exaggeratedly simplifies the form of an enormous complex.” Sound kinda negative…. can someone say TERRORIST!!!

Out

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

you know what

At least i’m still alive.

glass box asshole.

Robert Venturi 30 Mar 06

you know what

At least i’m still alive.

glass box asshole.

Anonymous Coward 30 Mar 06

you know what,

at least im still alive

Anonymous Coward 30 Mar 06

you know what,

at least im still alive

Lorenzo Marchi 04 Jul 06

simple systems, sustenible production (in Design)

LESS-ENERGY is my “pro-object” for a new style in production with the philosophy “MORE IS LESS (ENERGY)”
We buy many products done by sophisticated technology machines. These machines require a lot of energy to be produced. Production processes are changing quickly, machines have a short life and then we must get rid of them. We often don’t really need a sophisticated product that have fragile parts and cannot be repaired, recycled or reselled to other users.

We can use massive wood of normal substainable essence to have simple projects:

- in terms of time needed to produce them

- with simple machines accessible in every place and country.

These projects of fornitures are indipendent from temporary fashions. The projects takes robust solutions avoiding breakages. The wood can be used again. Elegance and functionality are a challenge for artists, architects and designers.

Ian Crawford 22 Aug 06

Someone asked the question: Who is this less guy anyway? and I felt that I had to reply. Dietar Rams suggested that: “Weniger aber besser” (Less but better), and Mies van der Rohe put forward the phrase: “Less is more”. In fact, I work for a company called Vitsoe and we sell a system designed by Rams. We are planning on creating a blog soon called www.lessbutbetter.org, based on that very principle of buying less products, of much higher quality and longer lasting. I agree with Lorenzo that “Less is more” implies that more is better, but it depends on whether or not you are discussing something material or immaterial, van der Rohe may have been discussing the positive, yet immaterial aspects of the design. Anyway…if anyone would like to contribute their thoughts to the lessbutbetter blog, let me know.

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