This reductive design method involves iteratively removing unnecessary elements from a design. It provides a structured approach to reducing complexity and helps produce a more elegant, streamlined final product, process, or organization.
Session Length: 60+ minutes Group Size: 4+ people Prep Time: 10-20+ minutes
Use Trimming in the mid or late point of a design activity, as the initial design begins to emerge. It is particularly helpful any time we encounter “too much” of something – steps in a process, options to choose from, documents, PowerPoint slides, requirements for a system, etc.
This process can:
- Bring clarity to an overly complex or cluttered system with too many features or components, unwieldy user experience, or lots of steps.
- Streamline a system that exceeds design thresholds (size, weight, power, cost, etc.) and help accelerate operations or procedures.
- Remove unnecessary friction or complexities.
- Increase the team’s mental agility as they explore ways to perform functions in the absense of traditional mechanisms.
- Demonstrate whether risky ideas (such as removing essential components from a design) may be worth pursuing
- Satisfy objectives of weight, size, cost, etc.
- Increase maintainability, usability, reliability, etc.
STEP 1: List all the pieces included in the current design.
STEP 2: Define a Stop Strategy. Three common Stop Strategies are:
- Threshold strategy – Stop trimming when the system has satisfied some threshold
(size, weight, power, etc.).
- Time-box strategy – Stop trimming when a specified amount of time has passed.
- Thorough strategy – Check every single component.
STEP 3: Remove a piece from the list. Common strategies include:
- Obviously extraneous – Remove components that are clearly unnecessary.
- Threshold busters – Remove components that are most responsible for the system
exceeding thresholds (e.g., remove the heaviest component if the system exceeds the
- Speedy trim – Remove any component that can be removed quickly, minimizing the
amount of time spent on trimming.
- Acceleration trim – Remove any component whose removal will yield a substantially
shorter project timeline.
- Random – Randomly remove a component.
- Obviously necessary – Remove a component that appears essential to the system.
STEP 4: Test the system to determine if it works without a piece. If so, discard that piece. If not,
replace the piece.
STEP 5: Repeat the process until the Stop Strategy applies.
Download this tool to print out and start using with your team. Each download includes a tool description and if applicable, a template and example.