While many people might be familiar with Zen as a broad concept, far fewer are knowledgeable of the key aesthetic principles that collectively comprise the “Zen of design.”
To understand the Zen principles, a good starting point is shibumi. It is an overarching concept, an ideal. It has no precise definition in Japanese, but its meaning is reserved for objects and experiences that exhibit in paradox and all at once the very best of everything and nothing: Elegant simplicity. Effortless effectiveness. Understated excellence. Beautiful imperfection.
James Michener referred to shibumi in his 1968 novel Iberia, writing that it can’t be translated and has no explanation. In his 1972 book, The Unknown Craftsman, Soetsu Yanagi talked about shibumi in the context of art, writing that a true work of art is one with intentionally imperfect beauty that makes an artist of the viewer. In the 1979 best-selling spy novel Shibumi, the author Trevanian (the nom de plume of Dr. Rodney William Whitaker) wrote, “Shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying commonplace appearances.”
Shibumi was first introduced to the West by House Beautiful in 1960. Nearly 40 years later, architect Sarah Susanka reintroduced shibumi in her 1998 book The Not So Big House: “The quality of shibumi evolves out of a process of complexity, though none of this complexity shows in the result. It often seems to arise when an architect is striving to meet a particular design challenge. When something has been designed really well, it has an understated, effortless beauty, and it really works. That’s shibumi.”
The process may be complex, but these seven Zen principles can help you approach shibumi in your own designs:
THE SHIBUMI SEVEN
Refrain from adding what is not absolutely necessary in the first place.
Eliminate what doesn’t matter to make more room for what does.
Incorporate naturally occurring patterns and rhythms into your design.
Limit information just enough to pique curiosity and leave something to the imagination.
5. IMPERFECTION, ASYMMETRY
Leave room for others to cocreate with you; provide a platform for open innovation.
6. BREAK FROM ROUTINE
An interruptive “break” is an important part of any breakthrough design.
7. STILLNESS, TRANQUILLITY
Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.
Read the whole origanal blog here on FastCoDesign