When Simplicity is a Necessity
Photos by Forrest Anderson
As a graphic and interface designer and journalist, I thought I knew a lot about simplicity. My job is boiling complex subjects down to an easy-to-understand form so that people can grasp them quickly.
However, a serious accident almost two years ago elevated me to a whole new level of simplicity. Slipping on a step, I fell and fractured my right iliac crest, the large wing-shaped bone on the side of the pelvis. Transported by ambulance to a hospital, I was X-rayed and told that I also had a large tumor in my abdomen that needed to be removed. Thus ensued a long rough summer of hospitalization, two surgeries and weeks in a rehab center, followed by many months in a wheel chair and then walking with a cane. I just barely got to the point where I could walk without a cane when I badly sprained my knee and was back on crutches.
The main lesson I learned from this major cramp in my lifestyle is that a disability makes even the simplest tasks about ten times as hard. I’ve come to greatly appreciate simplicity and to realize how difficult it is to achieve.
The impact of my injury was greatly lessened by several companies’ amazing products, which enabled me to mentally roam far beyond the confines of my bedroom and home office during my long recovery.
Foremost among these companies is Apple, whose long-standing crusade to develop simple and accessible products came to my rescue in a million ways. Thanks to my Macbook Pro, iPad Pro, iPhone 7 Plus and the Apple sports watch on which I tracked my physical progress, I have had a productive year despite my physical limitation. Even when I was flat on my back and unable to move, the iPad gave me Internet access. My Macbook Pro, at first resting on my stomach as I lay on my back and later on my lap while I was in a wheelchair, enabled me to compile a three-volume series of photo books on China, finish writing another book and do the research for two more.
The Adobe Creative Cloud was another life saver. It enabled me to access and get updates for its full suite of photo editing, graphic design, book layout and video editing software and fonts from my hospital bed, rehab center and eventually my home.
Other fantastic software such as Astropad, which turns the iPad Pro and its pencil into a graphics tablet, and Adobe Sketch enabled me to create illustrations for a book and an app.
Muji provides simple sticky-note checklists and calendars that help me me to keep track of projects.
Other companies provided inexpensive and light-weight aids for the disabled which I found extremely helpful – a lightweight fold-up wheelchair, a walking stick that has exchangeable tips to use in icy weather and on sandy soil, and a shower chair.
I also have used knee braces by Shock Doctor and a variety of other physical therapy products that I am exceptionally grateful for.
The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City is another organization that went way out of its way to make two surgeries as painless and successful as possible.
Once I began to walk again, I have virtually lived in Nike shoes, which are comfortable and sure footed as well as attractive.
I can’t thank these companies, their designers and engineers and the executives who empowered them enough for the gift they gave me this past couple of years. Their efforts have bought lifetime customer loyalty from me. Unlike many companies that include accessibility features that help the disabled as an afterthought or not at all, these companies have gone the extra mile to place simplicity and access at the center of their mission.
All of these have helped to realize that simplicity and access should not be optional attributes in mass-produced products, but good design should begin with them.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. I'm just grateful for the people who produced these products and services.
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