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Designing Simplicity

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

A tiny blue mark got me thinking about visual communication. This faucet has been in my daily life for several years. I find it remarkable in two ways. First, if you were to empty our bathroom of the accoutrements of everyday use—tubes of toothpaste and bottles of shampoo, each with its own shape and color. And then you removed the prints on the walls and the plants (yes, plants!) hanging or perched on sills, eventually you end up with a palette of whites, a bit of shiny silver chrome, and the natural tones of stone tile. Except for this line, not more than a millimeter thick and four long. And it is blue. A little fleck of vibrant color in an otherwise subdued environment. But it’s not a decoration, at least not primarily—it’s an instruction. It tells you to turn the handle to the right for cold water and does so in the most efficient way possible. A matching red line on the left would be reasonable, but it would lessen my appreciation for the ease of communication and restraint of this design. A single visual element can denote cold, and the absence of that same element can imply its opposite with perfect clarity.

Maybe it is trivial and perhaps that’s why I like it. Sometimes the little things matter in little ways, and that’s enough. Either way, for design and user experience, that little blue line carries a lesson.

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