Rube Goldburg is known for his crazy contraptions. You've probably seen his drawings – complicated machines that accomplish a simple purpose: kicking a ball, using a napkin and opening a parachute. Goldburg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist whose goal was to help people laugh at how easy it can be to turn a simple job into something complicated.
In spite of his clever cartoons … we've never really gotten the message: keep it simple.
People like to think that creating a complex plan means that our idea is intelligent and attention getting. You see it when clients request an ad packed with a laundry list of sales and instructions. Or someone writes an online post that goes on and on. You know it won't work. There's just too much to pack in to 30 seconds or 140 characters.
Our job as communicators is to teach our clients that simple sells. People have a tiny attention span and won't catch it all. Our role – sometimes – is to gently push back and help clients cut through the clutter and connect.
How to start?
Look at your own projects. Your own content. Your own promotions. Where can you simplify? (Without cutting corners) What do you want people to remember? Are you stating it clearly? Can you say more with fewer words? Share your findings with co-workers and clients. Help them understand that simplicity sells.
Here's a challenge for communicators: keep all those Rube Goldburg contraptions on the printed page where they belong. And keep them away from your content, clients and promotions.