The advantages of starting with simple models and building complexity slowly can be significant in the development of ground water models. In many circumstances, simpler models are characterized by fewer defined parameters and shorter execution times. In this work, the number of parameters is used as the primary measure of simplicity and complexity; the advantages of shorter execution times also are considered. The ideas are presented in the context of constructing ground water models but are applicable to many fields. Simplicity first is put in perspective as part of the entire modeling process using 14 guidelines for effective model calibration. It is noted that neither very simple nor very complex models generally produce the most accurate predictions and that determining the appropriate level of complexity is an ill-defined process. It is suggested that a thorough evaluation of observation errors is essential to model development. Finally, specific ways are discussed to design useful ground water models that have fewer parameters and shorter execution times.