Origin of the proverb
This proverb was coined by the poet Robert Browning. Browning wrote ‘less is more’ in his poem ‘Andrea del Sarto (Called The Faultless Painter)’, which was published in 1855.
‘Less is more’ means that very often doing a something small well is better than doing a lot. The phrase, ‘less is more’, means that:
- Doing less can have more impact than doing a lot.
- Doing a small thing well is better than doing many things perhaps not so well.
- Adding some simplicity to life can make it more powerful.
Less is more means that sometimes doing less has a more powerful effect. This proverb is an oxymoron: less and more are opposites. Because of this, at first sight the proverb does not seem to make sense. However, the true meaning of the proverb is a logical one. This true meaning is that a sparser, less cluttered approach to life can be more effective.
Another title for Browning’s poem ‘Andrea del Sarto’ was: ‘The Faultless Painter’. This is significant because the proverb ‘less is more’ was subsequently found to have a big impact on painting.
The minimalist movement in art took this phrase as their inspiration. In 1947, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted it as a mantra for architecture, art and design. Minimalist art is art that uses abstract geometric forms, without any sense of a story or a biography behind them. Minimalist art is often seen as clean, clear, stripped down art that does not go in for complex flourishes and which tends to favor single blocks of color arranged into geometric patterns rather than many layered colors. It embodied the idea that less is more.
Nevertheless, Minimalist art works are seen to be very powerful as they capture the attention. The focus on form in Minimalist art is seen to give this art form a timeless, universal quality. Whether it is a sculpture, a painting or a piece of music, a Minimalist art work definitely adheres to the principle that ‘less is more’.
The phrase ‘less is more’ is equally relevant in our day to day life. A single, very thoughtful gift presented to loved ones can speak volumes. While at work, doing a few tasks very well can be more productive than trying to do dozens of tasks but completing none of them. Words are often more powerful when we use fewer of them. Think of a punchy advertising slogan.
Reasons Why ‘Less is More’
Please find below a few convincing reasons why ‘less is more’.
1. Clarity of explanation: When we want to explain ourselves clearly, it is often best to do so concisely.
2. Making art: ‘Less is more’ is the cornerstone of many works of art, including minimalism.
3. In fashion: Sometimes the perfect look is created in a very simple way.
4. Loving gestures: Often, a single well thought out gesture is all that we need to show someone that we love them.
5. Persuasion: We have all seen how brands use short and eye catching slogans to persuade people to buy their products. This is a clear example of ‘less is more’ at work in the business world.
6. Being productive: It may seem counter-intuitive, however one of the keys to productivity is actually just getting a few things done well rather than rushing madly to work at a variety of different things and getting none of them done in the end.
7. Material possessions: Though we may feel pressure to accumulate as many possessions as possible, the proverb ‘less is more’ reminds us that in fact having just a few well cared for possessions can be much better!
‘Less is more’ is a proverb that can apply to numerous different situations. It helps us to appreciate what we have!
Also read about the topic, ‘Less is more’, at Wikipedia.