What’s the difference between custard and an aeroplane?

Photo by Andrey Larin on Unsplash

The answer: one is complex, the other is complicated. So, what’s the difference?

I can’t remember where I heard this analogy, but it always stuck with me. It’s an elegant solution to a common misunderstanding. Every now and again I hear someone get their complicated confused for their complex, and every time, this little image comes back to me.

So an aeroplane is complicated. You could dismantle an Airbus A380, laying all the parts out on the floor, then bit by bit put the whole thing back together. Of course, it wouldn’t be easy. And you’d need plenty of space, heaps of time, and a whole army of experts to do it. But, in theory, it could be done. It’s just complicated.

Custard, on the other hand, is complex. You can’t unmake a custard. Once you’ve emulsified those egg yolks, there’s no going back. The parts that make up the custard aren’t just combined, they’re fundamentally changed in the process. That’s what makes it complex.

I can’t remember where I heard this little gem. You’ve got to love an uncomplicated solution. I hope it helps you one day too.

Originally published at https://brenttunney.com.au on March 18, 2019.



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Brent Tunney

Brent Tunney


Sometimes I’m a designer, sometimes I’m a UX consultant and sometimes I’m a marketer. Mostly, I help you simplify and clarify things. brenttunney.com.au