A-Z Popular Blog Design Search »
Related Guides

Complexity: Accidental vs Essential

 , updated on
Accidental complexity is something that can be simplified by a new idea, design, technique, procedure or approach. Essential complexity is something that can't be simpler or something that loses value when it becomes simpler.
Identifying the difference between accidental and essential complexity is a fundamental design technique. Accidental complexity is an opportunity to make something more valuable by simplifying it. Attempts to reduce essential complexity are futile or damaging.

Accidental Complexity

Accidental complexity is an opportunity to introduce a simplification that adds unambiguous value. For example, if software contains a bug that causes a mobile device to run slowly, fixing it adds value.

Essential Complexity

Essential complexity is something that loses value if it is simplified. A clear example is a calculation that can be shown by proof to have no shortcut. In many cases, essential complexity is a judgment call. If you remove a popular control or feature from software, the software may still function but it has arguably lost value due to the simplification.
Essential complexity is influenced by human factors such as culture. For example, fast food is fast, efficient, cheap and convenient. However, slow food enthusiasts might feel that fast food removes things that have value such as local seasonal ingredients, social meals, sustainable agriculture and complex tastes.
Accidental Complexity vs Essential Complexity
Accidental Complexity
Essential Complexity
Something that can be simplified in a way that adds unambiguous value.
Something that can't be simplified without losing value.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about talent.
Area Of Expertise
Career Opportunities
Character Building
Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Traits
Creative Ability
Creative Traits
Creative Works
Data Literacy
Decision Making
Design Thinking
Gaming Skills
Meaningful Work
Personal Presence
Personal Resilience
Problem Solving
Professional Self
Public Speaking
Self Direction
Self Management
Systems Thinking
Visual Design
More ...
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


A comprehensive guide to design.

Color Theory

An overview of color theory.

Layout vs Composition

The difference between layout and composition.

Modeless vs Contextual

The difference between modeless and contextual user interfaces explained.

Types Of Design

A list of common types of design.

Design Process

The steps in a design process.

Design Quality

The common types of design quality.

Universal Design

A definition of universal design with examples.

Sensory Design

A definition of sensory design with examples.

Emotional Design

An overview of emotional design.


The definition of elegance with examples.

Types of Technology

A reasonably comprehensive list of information technologies.


A list of gamification techniques.

Information Technology Problems

A list of common IT problems.

Types Of Cloud

The basic types of cloud computing.

Machine Data

The common types of machine data.

Types Of Software

The common types of software.

Proprietary Technology

A definition of proprietary technology with examples.

Systems Design

The common elements of a systems design.

Systems vs Applications

The difference between systems and applications explained.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map