The one-sentence summary

The art of simplicity can change the world.


  • The art of simplicity can change the world, and here is a celebration of moments when it did, proving that nothing is impossible.
  • Forget waffle, vagueness, platitudes and flim flam – you need a strong preference to get to the point.
  • The short introduction covers simplicity in poetry, art, prose, drama, politics and business.
  • It claims that three iconic documents changed the world: the Sermon on the Mount, the Declaration of Independence, and the Communist Manifesto (I am not sure everyone would necessarily agree with this).
  • Blaise Pascal is quoted as saying: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” although this is more commonly quoted as: “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” The sentiment remains valid whichever version is accurate.


  • This is a decent compendium of 45 clever ideas – the barcode, the paper clip, velcro, daylight saving, cats’ eyes, Morse code, the number zero, the bilingual dictionary, traffic lights, tea bags, the screw, and many more.
  • The art direction is clean and thought-provoking.
  • You could use it as a stimulating handbook to inspire better ideas. In fact, it started life as a training manual for employees.
  • The point that it is harder to be simple than complicated is well made.


  • It is essentially an agency brochure and as such, pretty self-serving.
  • The first draft notes for Maurice Saatchi’s speech at the Saatchistory40th anniversary are illegible and self-indulgent. The final version shows two more illegible cards. If the point is to emphasise brevity, it doesn’t work.
  • We have seen a lot of these ideas before – not enough of them are “new news”.