Jeffersonian Simplicity

For me, the highlight of the 2006 Brainstorm Conference was the opportunity to hear Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speak about the intricacies of the Constitution of the United States

In response to an audience question about the staying power of the Constitution (it’s the oldest in existence), she paused, picked up her purse, and took out a copy of the Constitution in pamphlet form — maybe 5 x 2.5 inches.  Just imagine: the document which shaped this country, and continues to guide it and many others around the world hundreds of years later, fits on just a few small sheets of paper.  Marvellously extensible and modular, it is also written in plain language.  Isn’t that something?  For all its enormous generative power, the Constitution is likely more concise and more intelligible than many software license use agreements.

Thank you, Justice O’Connor, for giving us a dramatic lesson in the power of simplicity.  Simple design, but not ever simplistic.

Of course, perhaps that simplicity shouldn’t be surprising.  Why?  Well, because said constitution was penned by a design thinker.