Traditional Japanese art and culture celebrates simplicity and form. In Ukiyo-e, wood block printing, white, or blank elements are left on the canvas to emphasize the pureness of the forms depicted. In Ikebana, flower arrangement, single colors are chosen to contrast with container and setting, but never more than one or two so that the whole remains simple.
Even that hard to define term “wabi-sabi”, a phrase meaning a feeling of inexplicable sadness or longing that overcomes one when one sees an object that was once beautiful but has become ugly and tarnished over long periods of hard use, celebrates, as its central theme pureness of form and use.
The list goes on – Kabuki, Bunrakyu, Mashiko-yaki, all of these celebrate simplicity and cleanliness of form.
Why then, does my new pedometer have 19 functions I can not identify, much less make use of?
To be sure, the form is clean and pure. The pedometer is a nice, dull, sporting orange, packed into a small rectangle, able to be worn on a belt. Then, when open, there is a large, digital readout and three buttons. Simple, clean, pure.
Except that I can not make the thing work right.
The pureness of form does not seem to extend into a pureness of function. Somewhere along the way, the idea of simplicity stopped at design and never made it into function. There is a lesson in that somewhere.
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