Great Quotes on Simplicity (2023)

“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.” — Oscar Wilde

Simplicity is sometimes elusive, but almost always present. Sometimes you just need to know where to look for it, or how to look for it. Luckily, the sages of the ages have shared lots of thoughts on simplicity in the form of quotes that we can borrow and build on.

When i think of simplicity, a few things always come to mind:

  • Occam’s Razor or Ockham’s Razor — “Plurality should not be assumed without necessity.” (William of Ockham)
  • The KISS principle — Keep It Simple Stupid
  • “Less is more.” — Mies van der Rohe
  • “Less is a bore.” — Robert Venturi
  • Mark Twain’s famous quote — “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
  • Einstein’s famous quote — “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Together, these ideas help me follow a path of simplicity.

My Thoughts on Simplicity

I’m a fan of simple and simplicity. When I tackle a topic, I don’t think I’m done until I’ve found the simplest way to look at it. I think of simplicity as a process. You can’t always start there, but you can find it or create more of it as you go. I also think of simplicity as a by-product.

It happens when I find the elegant path or the simple truth.

Sometimes I see simplicity as a means to an end — where the end is a simpler understanding or a simpler result or a simpler way to share. Sometimes I have to look backward to find simplicity — I can’t always find simple up front, but sometimes when I look back, it was there all along, either hidden among the chaos, or I just didn’t have the right lens.

The most important thing I’ve learned about simplicity is that simplicity wins in the long run. Simple is stickier than complexity, and it survives. I think nature teaches us that, and we learn it time and again in work and in life.

Top 3 Quotes on Simplicity

Here are my top three favorite quotes on simplicity:

  1. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci
  2. “For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong.” — Henry Louis Mencken
  3. “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” — Isaac Newton

Best Quotes on Simplicity

Here is my longer set of simplicity quotes that I draw from:

“A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

“A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life.”

— Henri Frederic Amiel

“And yes, there’s a simplicity to writing books because you’re not a member of a team, so you make all the decisions yourself instead of deferring to a committee. “

— Bernard Cornwell

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”

— E. F. Schumacker

“A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life.”

Winston Churchill

“A taste for simplicity cannot last for long.”

— Eugene Delacroix

Anything simple always interests me.”

— David Hockney

“As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration. “

Laura Nyro

“As I grew older, I realized that it was much better to insist on the genuine forms of nature, for simplicity is the greatest adornment of art.”

— Albrecht Durer

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.”

– Plato

“Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”

— Edward Tuft

“Don’t make the process harder than it is.“

— Jack Welch

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

— Robert Brault

“Enjoy the simple, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work.”

— Benjamin Hoff

“Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated that we can conceive.”

– Goethe

“Everything is complex and everything is simple. The rose has no why attached to it, it blooms because it blooms, how no thought of itself, or desire to be seen. What could be more complicated than a rose for someone who wants to understand it? What could be simpler for someone who wants nothing? The complexity of thinking, the simplicity of beholding.”

— Andre Comte-Sponville

“Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”

— H. L. Mencken

“Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

— Herbert Hoover

“From native simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“For the more limited, if adequate, is always preferable.”

– Aristotle

“Grandeur and beauty are so very opposite, that you often diminish the one as you increase the other. Variety is most akin to the latter, simplicity to the former. “

— William Shenstone

“Guided only by their feeling for symmetry, simplicity, and generality, and an indefinable sense of the fitness of things, creative mathematicians now, as in the past, are inspired by the art of mathematics rather than by any prospect of ultimate usefulness.”

— E. T. Bell

“How many things are there which I do not want.”

– Socrates

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all. “

— Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I believe that the Apple Shuffle is an excellent compromise among the conflicting requirements of simplicity, elegance, size, battery life, and function.”

— Donald Norman

“I believe we would be happier to have a personal revolution in our individual lives and go back to simpler living and more direct thinking. It is the simple things of life that make living worthwhile, the sweet fundamental things such as love and duty, work and rest, and living close to nature.”

— Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I despise simplicity. It is the negation of all that is beautiful.”

— Norman Hartnell

“I don’t need a lot of money. Simplicity is the answer for me.”

— Linda McCartney

“I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.”

— Alice Roosevelt Longworth

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”

— Lao Tzu

“I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them.”

— Ann Morrow Lindbergh

“I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.”

— Paul Anderson

“I just like simplicity. I like simple songs, I like simple chords, simple vocals, simple lead guitar. I just like simplicity. That’s just the way I like it. “

— Jeremy Spencer

“I take a simple view of living. It is, keep your eyes open and get on with it.”

— Sir Laurence Olivier

“I wish I had invented blue jeans. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes.”

— Yves Saint Laurent

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.”

— Wu-Men

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

— Henry Wadsworth

“Is it not in the most absolute simplicity that real genius plies its pinions the most wonderfully?”

— E. T. A. Hoffmann

“It is not how much space there is, but rather how it is used. It is not how much information there is, but rather how effectively it is organized.”

— Edward Tufte

“It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when addressing popular audiences.”

– Aristotle

“Let us learn to live simply, so that others may simply live.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

“Life is beautiful in its simplicity.”

— Thomas Matthiessen

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

– Confucius

“Live simply so that others may simply live.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

“Live simply that others might simply live.”

— Elizabeth Seaton

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

— Charles Mingus

“Man is an over-complicated organism. If he is doomed to extinction he will die out for want of simplicity.”

— Ezra Pound

“Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.”

— Lao Tzu

Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.”

— Albert Einstein

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“My philosophy? Simplicity plus variety.”

— Hank Stram

“Nature is what we know – Yet have not art to say – So impotent our wisdom is To her simplicity”

— Emily Dickinson

Never again will I make the simple into the complex. Something of true value does not become more valuable because it becomes complicated. Experience and conditions come and go; complications arise and fall away, but the simple action of God is eternal in the universe.”

— Donald Curtis

“Nobility of spirit has more to do with simplicity than ostentation, wisdom rather than wealth, commitment rather than ambition.”

— Riccardo Muti

“No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe.”

— William Kingdon Clifford

Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing is as simple as we hope it will be.”

— Jim Horning

Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nothing is true, but that which is simple.”

— Johann Wolfgang

“Of manners gentle, of affections mild; In wit a man, simplicity a child.”

— Alexander Pope

Organic architecture seeks superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright

“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify.”

— Henry Thoreau

“Part of the problem today is that we have a surplus of simple answers and a shortage of simple problems.”

— Syracuse Herald

Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.”

– Mark Twain

Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”

— Thor Heyerdahl

Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.”

— Thomas Kempis

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

— Edwin Way Teale

Seek simplicity but distrust it.”

— Alfred North Whitehead

“Simple pleasures are the last healthy refuge in a complex world.“

— Oscar Wilde

“Simple truths are a relief from grand speculations.”

– Vauvenargues

Simplicity and naturalness are the truest marks of distinction.”

— W. Somerset Maugham

“Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright

“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: these are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy.”

— Richard Halloway

“Simplicity does not mean want or poverty. It does not mean the absence of any decor, or absolute nudity. It only means that the decor should belong intimately to the design proper, and that anything foreign to it should be taken away.”

— Paul Jacques Grillo

“Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it. “

— Alan Perlis

“Simplicity in character, in manners, in style; in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity. “

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual. You will find people living simply in large cities, rural areas and everything in between.”

— Linda Breen Pierce

Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. “

Edsger Dijkstra

Simplicity is a state of mind.”

— Charles Wagner

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”

— Charles Dudley Warner

“Simplicity is not an objective in art, but one achieves simplicity despite one’s self by entering into the real sense of things.”

— Constantin Brancusi

“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations. “

— Paul Rand

Simplicity is the glory of expression.“

— Walt Whitman

Simplicity is the key. “

— Ritchie Blackmore

Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”

— Bruce Lee

Simplicity is the nature of great souls.”

— Papa Ramadas

Simplicity of character is no hindrance to the subtlety of intellect.”

— John Morley

“Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.”

— William Hazlitt

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand… We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.”

— Richard Holloway

Simplicity is an exact medium between too little and too much. “

— Joshua Reynold

“Simplicity is indeed often the sign of truth and a criterion of beauty.”

— Mahlon Hoagland

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”

— Charles Dudley Warner

Simplicity is natures first step, and the last of art. “

— Philip James Bailey

“Simplicity is the essence of happiness.”

— Cedric Bledsoe

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

— Frederic Chopin

Simplicity is the glory of expression.”

— Walt Whitman

Simplicity makes me happy. “

— Alicia Keys

Simplicity should not be identified with bareness. “

— Felix Adler

Simply the thing that I am shall make me live.”

— William Shakespeare

“Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius. “

— George Sand

Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”

— Arnold Glasow

Teach us delight in the simple things, and mirth that has no bitter springs; forgiveness free of evil done, and love to all men beneath the sun.”

— Rudyard Kipling

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Hans Hofmann

“The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity. “

— Douglas Horton

“The aspects of things that are most important to us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”

— Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The farther you go, the less you know.”

— Lao Tsu

“The faultless formulas of television–the ones that last–are simple.”

— Dick Clark

“The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, Seek simplicity and distrust it.”

— Alfred North Whitehead

“The great artist and thinker are the simplifiers.”

— Henri Frederic Amiel

The great seal of truth is simplicity. “

— Herman Boerhaave

The little things are infinitely the most important. “

— Arthur Conan Doyle

“The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.”

— Edward Teller

The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.”

— Kahlil Gibran

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

— Thomas More

The Poems, all three hundred of them, may be summed up in one of their phrases: ‘Let our thoughts be correct.'”

– Confucius

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure, and never simple.”

— Oscar Wilde

The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination.”

— Elbert Hubbard

“The simplest things are often the truest.”

— Richard Bach

“The simplest things give me ideas.”

— Joan Miro

“The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication. “

— George Santayana

“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.”

— Doris Janzen Longacre

The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.”

— Willard Gibbs

“There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit.”

— Alexander Pope

There is a simplicity that exists on the far side of complexity, and there is a communication of sentiment and attitude not to be discovered by careful exegesis of a text.”

— Patrick Buchanan

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”

— Leo Nikolaevich Tolstov

“There is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order-of-magnitude improvement within a decade in productivity, in reliability, in simplicity.”

— Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.

“’Think simple’ as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

— Albert Einstein

“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but to so love wisdom as to live according to its dictates a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter … to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”

— John Burroughs

To simplify complications is the first essential of success.”

— George Earle Buckle

“Understanding reduces the greatest to simplicity, and lack of its causes the least to take on the magnitude. “

— Raymond Holliwell

“Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living. It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest.”

— Peace Pilgrim

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”

— John Kabat-Zinn

“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.”

— Donald Horban

“We struggle with the complexities and avoid the simplicities.”

— Norman Vincent Peale

“What’s really important is to simplify. The work of most photographers would be improved immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity, you are more likely to reach the viewer.”

— William Albert Allard

“When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it. “

— Jacob Lawrence

“When thought is too weak to be simply expressed, it’s clear proof that it should be rejected.”

— Luc De Clapiers

Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself – it is the occurring which is difficult. “

— Stephen Leacock

“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.”

— Vernon Howard

You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”

— Anotine de Saint-Exupery

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