Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to design your life

I started to read this article in Wired magazine recently as a straight forward effort to learn a bit about the history and practice of design. The article profiles Fred Brooks who was a software engineer with IBM.  Mr. Brooks went on to write a book that highlighted the diminishing return of adding programmers to an overdue software project. He has recently authored another book which is a collection of essays about design.

Two quotes struck me in the interview. The first is what he says about the process of design:

The critical thing about the design process is to identify your scarcest resource. Despite what you may think, that very often is not money. For example, in a NASA moon shot, money is abundant but lightness is scarce; every ounce of weight requires tons of material below.
It is an interesting way to approach general problems in one’s life. Not to always go to the most obvious answer of limited time and money but to identify the other scarce resources, that could be maximized to present solutions.
The second quote involved a question about what he had learned from the design of Apple’s products:
Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, once said that his method of design was to start with a vision of what you want and then one by one, remove the technical obstacles until you have it. I think that’s what Steve Jobs does. he starts with a vision rather than a list of features.
It struck me that this quote could apply to life at a much more personal level. A person should start with the vision of who they want to be and then work on the technical and other obstacles until you have what you want.

By the way, the picture at the top really has nothing to do with the post, I just wanted some color and it looked kind of "designy".The shot is from the Japanese Friendship Garden near my house in Phoenix.

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