The Design of Design

I just finished up reading “The Design of Design” by Fred Brookes JR (author of the Mythical Man Month):

This book is a reflection on the design process itself and, in particular, what good designers are made of.  Overall, I feel surprisingly positive about it, and basically enjoyed it.  Reading between the lines, the main thesis of the book is that design-by-committee is bad and that solo designers, or designers working in pairs, are optimal.  The argument is really that a good design requires coherency and that, without a single point of control, this is impossible to achieve.  For example, the author recounts being involved in the initial work on requirements gathering for the commanche Helicopter, and I found this fascinating.  This was a classic example of design by committee, and it’s amazing to hear that there was no qualified helicopter engineer on the requirements committee.  Also interesting was the way different groups lobbied for their own sides, without giving any thought to feasibility and the overall design.

Another aspect of the book which I enjoyed was the discussion regarding telecommunication.  In particular, that whilst comms technology increases all the time, ultimately, you just can’t beat a face-face meeting.  The one exception the authors considers here, is when you already know the person extremely well.  In such case, you can communicate quite effectively over e.g. the phone, etc.

So, overall, definitely worth a read.  I did, however, find the later chapters where the author spends increasing amounts of time discussing house design to get a little tiring.  But, the early stuff was very good and more than makes up for it.

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