[thelist] "A Brief Rhapsody on Art and Engineering"

Steve Cook sck at biljettpoolen.se
Fri Sep 8 07:44:50 CDT 2000

I was browsing through the site of Nomadic Research Labs -
http://www.microship.com/index.html - the homepages of a chap called Steven
Roberts who has dedicated his life to the design and use of exquisite
connected bikes and boats and lived a techno-nomadic lifestyle. 

Anyways, I came across the following text, which I thought was probably one
of the best descriptions of the start of the creative process and what the
first stage of planning a project is all about. I think you'll agree that
it's equally applicable to web building as it is to building a microship (as
it is to any project in fact). Its simplicity, insight and honesty reminds
me of parts of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". You can find the
original at this page -

"It is essential, when designing a complex system, to spend some relaxed
time fantasizing about what it will be like when it's finished. After all,
this is what drives the process of engineering: at some level between
rigorous and fanciful, an image of the finished product must be held in the
mind, savored, and examined from all sides. Only after this playful
interlude (which, to a manager, may be disturbingly indistinguishable from
unproductive wall-staring) can decomposition of the design into subsystems,
tasks, and packaging make any sense.

Trying to shortcut this by starting on Day One with formal design
methodologies can have the catastrophic effect of committing one to an
ill-defined goal state, whereupon the end result is shaped more by design
tools than the supposed objective. That's why so many products seem
malformed, patched, and otherwise inelegant... the industry loves formal
tools, and generally looks askance upon such frivolous notions as
approaching product design as a delicate blend of art and engineering. The
exceptions, when they occur, are a joy to use. The rest simply miss the
point, no matter how stylish their exterior... or how sophisticated the
underlying technology."



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