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Simplicity and Design Matter

You can't overlook the importance of solid design.

Carl Richards, 08/11/2011

This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Morningstar Advisor magazine. Get your free subscription today! 

Our industry is one in which decided complexity represents a sort of intellectual superiority. For years, the classic sales strategy relied on using confusing jargon and complex charts to convince prospects that they need us. But if you look around, people like the things that are easy to understand and use. In other industries, the pursuit of this elegant simplicity is called design. Among the most admired companies, it's not an afterthought, but a primary focus.

 

Apple AAPL is an obvious example. Before the iPod, nothing existed to tell you how much you'd like using a simple scroll wheel to play music. It took a designer to decide that, and soon after, few of us could imagine living without it. We can learn a lot from Apple's pursuit of simplicity and its value to our industry.

 

When our clients-to-be come to see us, they rarely know what they want and almost never know what they truly need. They may have a sense they need help, but they often don't even know what questions to ask. Of course, we don't help matters when we immediately dive into a 60-minute presentation full of bullet points and jargon. We end up confusing the very people we're trying to help!

 

Because our industry has traditionally been so bad at design, it presents a huge opportunity for members of the Secret Society of Real Financial Planners (see Questions for the Secret Society in the June/July issue) to stand out from their peers by embracing simplicity over complexity. We can do that by making the "look and feel" of everything we do a primary focus, instead of an afterthought. So, here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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