It’s CTA’s design ethos, but what is that, exactly? What does it even mean? Well, it’s a bit complicated, but I’ll try my best to explain. They’re not actually curse words, but some engineers may have used them as such. It’s a term misunderstood in the engineering field. It’s naturally imperfect, it’s beauty by being understated, it’s… yada, yada, yada. It’s a term our architectural colleagues have been using for several years as part of their lifelong quests for enlightenment. It’s their lingo for creating fancy, harmonious designs. But why do they use it? Why would anyone want to base designs on such a funny-sounding term? Elegant simplicity!? Really?
Well, I know I previously had some of these same opinions, but I decided to open myself up to understanding the concept of elegant simplicity.
I first heard the term years ago when CTA Director of Design Jim Beal began discussing it in monthly all staff meetings. Even though it was discussed for years, I don’t think the meaning of the term really stuck with me until I was fortunate enough to participate in the CTA Design Forum in Denver last October. I witnessed firsthand the value and weight our architectural designers put on that term — and more importantly, its meaning.
It became apparent elegant simplicity can represent different things to everyone. There is no strictly-defined explanation for the term and I think that’s why it has been a struggle for engineers — like me — to grasp the concept. Engineers like boundaries and rules; don’t even talk to us unless you have a floor plan, or you will be wasting our time. We need those parameters to do our jobs. Or do we? Can we have our own form of elegant simplicity in the engineering world?