It can be particularly challenging to develop a design solution for a problem with the social, political, and human complexities of something like life in a refugee camp. A thorough understanding of the subtle details of the many facets of the experience is necessary in order to create something meaningful. In order to create a good design, it cannot become reductive.
In the vast majority of cases, simplicity is the best approach for any design, but treating simple as dogma can unnecessarily close off avenues of thought and lead us to discard potentially valuable ideas in pursuit of purity. Designers love minimalism, and in pursuit of that ideal as an end unto itself, we risk becoming reductive.
Distilling an idea to its most minimal form requires a wisdom gained from a thorough understanding of its depth and inherent complexity. The many facets of any given subject often hold subtle importance that may not be apparent at first or even second glance. There is a beauty to complex systems that cannot be fully understood without investing our time to learn from them, but that understanding requires time and effort that many of us, designers included, may not have the inclination to give.
Nick Foster compares minimalism for minimalism’s sake to the harsh purity of vodka, and contrasts it with the flavor and personality of gin. He argues that after breaking a object down to its purest form, it should go through a "subsequent distillation process" to regain some complexity and personality.
As 99% Invisible has pointed out, the original inventor of the computer mouse, Doug Engelbart, had created a much more complex product than the single button solution that was eventually adopted by Steve Jobs and Apple. His original design included a three button mouse that would be used in tandem with a five button “keyset”. This design could have made the keyboard itself unnecessary. While this setup would have simplified the hardware involved, it would have dramatically increased the learning curve for operating a computer, which was not seen as being marketable.
Englebart compared the single button mouse design to a tricycle: easy to use and good for basic tasks, but inadequate for traveling any kind of distance or traversing varied terrain. A real bike requires learning, practice, and complexity, but is much more versatile in its utility.
Complexity is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. A learning curve is not a signal of failure. Complexity is the path that leads to the wisdom necessary to create true simplicity. Simple is simple, but it isn’t easy.