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Monday, 30 January 2006

Joel's Introduction to Great Design

Joel Spolsky published his first draft of Introduction to Great Design, where he begins his quest to write a series on "great design".

While most products were became increasingly incomprehensible, like the typical home entertainment remote control, with dozens of mushy little buttons marked "MTS" or "SURR" or "PTY" that nobody has any hope of understanding, something else was happening: a very few, very good designers were, somehow, coming up with truly great designs that were beautiful, easy to understand, fun, and which made people happy. You know who they are because those products became bestsellers. The Apple iPod. TiVo. Google. Even the Motorola RAZR, which is so hard to turn on, is, in most ways, a great design.

The first article in the series aims to define design. His definition simply boils down to making tradeoffs between constraints, many of which are conflicting.

Every new feature is a tradeoff, between the people who could really use such a feature and the people who are just going to get overwhelmed by all the options.

Joel ends this first installment on the importance of design and set things up for the next article, where he will define "great design."

Design is something you only have to pay for once for your product. It's a part of the fixed costs in the equation, not the variable costs. But it adds value to every unit sold. That's what Thomas C. Gale, the famous Chrysler automobile designer who retired in 2001, meant when he said that "Good design adds value faster than it adds cost."

(Footnote: AUTOS ON FRIDAY/Design; He Put a New Face on Chrysler, The New York Times, Published: February 9, 2001, by By JIM MCCRAW , Late Edition - Final, Section F, Page 1, Column 1)

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