Reduce Complexity


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


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.).
  • Remove unnecessary friction or complexities.
  • 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
weight threshold).
· 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.



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