Editions - Design Presence

Simplicity

foreword by John Maeda

Nowadays when you plough through the adverts in your mailbox or turn on the TV to find something to watch, you can't help but notice that there's, well, a lot to notice. If it's steak, there's the flames. If it's financial advisors, there's the cash. If it's medicine, there's the pill. If it's women, there's the eyes. If it's men, there's the six-pack abs. If it's music, there's the gorgeous woman or man, again. And if it's cars, there's the gleaming chrome - which is the machine-equivalent to beguiling eyes plus a six-pack.

Simplicity can be boring, as anyone knows from reaching for your standard, boring toothbrush in the morning and swishing it around in your mouth. There are of course more exciting toothbrushes that play music that you can only hear through your jaw, and studious electronic designs that can make you feel that you might have a dentistry degree. But the classic toothbrush design suffices and makes immediate sense. There is no on/off switch. It's either in your mouth, or not. Which seems so obvious, but not to a toddler as any parent knows. Only when we learn how to use something is when it finally becomes simple - that can be said about the humble toothbrush, or the wooden pencil, or the bar of soap. The list goes on of all the objects we use in our environment that appear absolutely simple, but that's because we struggled to learn how to use them long ago as children. A car is the quintessential example of how we mistakenly believe that "anyone can drive, it's simple" only because we passed months of drivers ed and have forgotten that it was once impossibly complex.

The basic form of an experience, once settled, is simplicity itself. A keyboard and screen, a steering wheel and four tyres, a frying pan and stove, or a volume knob and stereo speakers. A computer needs to let you write a letter, a car needs to take you places, a pan needs to make a decent omelette, or a radio needs to rock the house. To find the true basis and fully own it in all of its fundamental elegance is step one of getting a design right. What is added on top of the core experience is where mastery occurs - a metal handle that feels better each time you touch it, or a patina that reveals itself with beauty as it ages. Or the design can instead get lost in translation with additional unnecessary elements that are attention deprived, decidedly garish, and always in your face. Simplicity is striking a balance between what you already know and what you don't have to know which begs an element of trust when you invest in objects or experiences that purport the ultimate in simplicity. Because great design for simplicity is what you notice after years of living with it because the designer has planned for you to want to keep it forever.

Simplicity

by Ian Cameron and Helmut Riedl

"Simplicity in design embraces truth and integrity. These attributes are at the heart of Ghost."

In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, people crave simplicity. It is the holy grail of design and engineering. It speaks to a deep-seated human need for things that are both natural and intuitive; that draw you to them instinctively. Yet ironically, achieving simplicity is never simple.

Single-mindedness is the root of simplicity.

When we began the Ghost project there was no confusion in the design and engineering teams' minds about what they were going to achieve. The result is a car that creates an instant connection - you're compelled to look more closely. We call it the power of simplicity.

From a visual standpoint Ghost expresses simplicity through the natural balance and flow of its exterior surfaces. A surging line catches your eye and you follow it, uninterrupted, to its conclusion. It appears timeless, yet at the same time thoroughly modern.

But the power of simplicity goes much deeper. There's no doubt that Ghost is a hugely complex piece of engineering, but we don't allow this complexity to come between the driver and the car.

We use technology to achieve simplicity, rather than add layer upon layer of complexity, we make things as effortless as possible. You just point the car in the direction you wish to go and press the accelerator - it's as simple as that. Why should the driver need to think about shifting through eight gears? Simplicity is achieved by coupling the effortless power of the V12 engine with the smoothest automatic transmission to deliver the sensation of an infinite first gear.

Filtering which information the driver really needs at the design stage makes driving Ghost simplicity itself. There is nothing to distract you or complicate matters. You get 'true information' through the controls and instruments. In particular the steering is set to articulate different road conditions so you react intuitively, creating an effortless and exhilarating drive.

You'll find rev counters are a standard feature in most cars but how useful is this information with an automatic gearbox? We believe it's far more important to know how much power you have in reserve. Is there enough to overtake a truck safely on a steep hill? A quick glance at the Power Reserve dial lets you decide instantly.

Simplicity isn't confined to the driver experience. Passengers are cocooned from the outside world by the simple expanses of natural leather and wood. The chassis continuously adapts so you are cosseted from the physical sensations of acceleration, braking and cornering.

The hardest question comes when your design is finished: how do you know you've achieved simplicity? It isn't a science and there is no exact way to measure it. Ultimately it is intuitive - the most rewarding thing is to see it in people's faces as they interact with your creation. No explanation is required. Simplicity attracts instinctively, it has a natural pull - just watch heads turn as a Ghost drives down the street.

It is this universal appeal of truth and integrity in its design, materials and engineering that makes Ghost a true expression of the power of simplicity - one that we and the design and engineering teams at Rolls-Royce are immensely proud of.