constraints archives
“Because design problems are so multi-dimensional they are also highly interactive… . It is the very interconnectedness of all [of the relevant] factors which is the essence of design problems, rather than the isolated factors themselves. In this respect designing is like devising a crossword. Change the letters of one word and several other words will need altering necessitating even further changes… .

If there was one single characteristic which could be used to identify good designers it is the ability to integrate and combine.”
Bryan Lawson, in How Designers Think, which I am now finally getting back to finishing. I am encountering this almost every day now. Tweak the background, up the contrast of the text. Up the contrast of the text, fix the associated icon to match. Fix that icon, tweak this icon to better distinguish it. Etc., etc., etc.

posted by ted on Tuesday, Mar 10, 2009 · 0 comments

“The art of architecture is really the art of constraint. It’s the art of compromise in many ways. It’s not about a brilliant man or woman working in his or her studio and producing a design and then getting it built. It’s about negotiating a whole series of constraints or challenges, whether those have to do with budget or site or the community.”
Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic, quoted in an interesting NPR piece on modern museum architecture. This reminded me about a great design discussion we had sometime last year about Bryan Lawson’s great book, How Designers Think. Negotiating that series of constraints and challenges is hard… but FUN! Rob mentioned this same concept as he worked with me on some map icons that needed to work well on widely varied map backgrounds in a 10X10 pixel space. (Thanks Rob!)

posted by ted on Saturday, Dec 13, 2008 · 0 comments

“Never tell anyone we don’t have enough resources to do a project. It makes us look lame. Instead, say we have a fixed capacity that is already dedicated to higher priorities. That makes whoever asked us for help look lame.”
The Pointy Haired Boss, instructing Dilbert and associates. This approach NOT recommended… (Thanks for the link, Sharky!)

posted by ted on Tuesday, Dec 04, 2007

Design Lessons from the Tooth Fairy

Lessons in interaction design can come from the most unlikely sources—your four year old daughter who has just lost a tooth, for example.

She had been wiggling her first loose tooth for a few days, and it finally came out last night. When telling my wife what she expected under her pillow in return for her tooth, she said in fine alliterative fashion, “I want dollars and diamonds. Cause I’m a girl.” The interaction design lesson? Know your audience and what they want and expect.

The tooth fairy, however, apparently has budget constraints. Supply of lost teeth is high and constantly being replenished, while demand for spare organically grown teeth is quite low. So the tooth fairy did not in fact deliver diamonds nor dollars last night, but rather two shiny quarters. What do we learn for interaction design? Customer requirements must be weighed against budget and timeline; quality design is just one of the elements of a successful project.

Finally, though she did not get what she explicitly asked for, my daughter was thrilled with her silvery coins. You see, “diamonds and dollars” were probably just the words she used to convey her desire for “something shiny and spendable”. Those weren’t her words, but it’s what she meant by them. The interaction design lesson: Customers do not always know what they need, or even what they mean by what they say. It’s our job to take requirements, clarify them, push back to the simplest design that meets those requirements—not to play the Yes-Man to our client.

Thank you, Tooth Fairy, and we’ll see you again soon.

(More design insights from the next visit of the Tooth Fairy…)

posted by ted on Wednesday, Jan 03, 2007