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Re: OT design vs programming?

Tom Ritchford wrote:

> >this seems like a really silly statement. following your line of
> >reasoning i suppose you could say that learning to play the violin
> >really well is much easier than "getting it right" in hardware or
> >software engineering.
> Er, no.
> The reason design is much easier than software is several-fold.
> 1. *Most* software projects fail to generate ANY software that actually
>     functions at all (forget about whether it's GOOD software).
>     It's very rare for design to not function at all (ie, you forget
>     the name of the book on your cover).
>     This is why it's hard -- because you might fail.

there are many ways to define failure. most of the design i see fails in
one aspect or another. i think we're all concerned with that. programmers
aren't the only ones...

> secondarily:
> 2. The amount of study and learning required just to keep up
>     in engineering is daunting and vast.
>     If I stopped reading and researching for three years, I'd
>     be unemployable.  I spend at least 10 hours a week, week in and
>     week out, studying just to keep up with the field.
>     Now, I know a lot of designers, a heck of a lot of designers!
>     and none of them have to swot like that.

i know an awful lot myself, and most of 'em work really long hours. so
maybe the sweat is applied differently. you're in a
technologically-intensive field, and you need to keep up with the pace of
technology. my brother is a neurobiologist, and he has to study more than
you to keep up in his field, but i put in just as many hours a week as he
does, and to learn to work in the various modalities that i've had the
opportunity to work in requires a *heck* of a lot of learning! though no
one is publishing textbooks or manuals on the subject...

> Sure, they read
>     design magazines and get books on the subject but generally
>     they can keep plying their skills without any research.

yeah, those skills are innate, and when designers aren't flexing them we
just sip lattes and scan a few issues of domus :-)

>     Photoshop still has the same features it did three years ago.
>     It wouldn't take you more than a day to learn what's changed.

sure, though i think a *day* might leave you wanting; but the complexity
of the tool has incredibly little to do with the quality of the end

>     Quark has barely changed at all.

neither has the echoplex. but i still find new ways of using it. this is
complexity on the human side.

>     (And frankly, most of the top designers I've met have no
>     particular mastery of their tools -- they have worked up
>     a good design sense, is all...)

what does it mean to "work up a good design sense"? as far as being "top
designers" with no mastery of their tools, well, i doubt they'd be tops in
my book.

> I hasten to add:
> 1. Mastering the violin is hard by any definition.

agreed. but to use your arguments as to why programming is harder than
design, has the violin changed much lately? and how many publications and
manuals are required reading to keep up one's practice on it? and what
happens if you *fail*? i suppose you don't get the job at the
philharmonic...so you end up waiting tables, or programming software, or
doing graphic design...

> 2. Just because one discipline is harder than another
>     doesn't mean that there's any moral virtue attached
>     to it.

i agree. absolutely. but i don't think you can argue about the relative
difficulty of a discipline unless you've actually done it (and i don't
think your forays into web design qualify you any more than kim's working
out the faceplate design of the edp qualifies him as a graphic designer-
no dis to kim...i LIKE the way my edp stands out in the rack! even if the
four plastic knobs on the function pots ARE a bit cheap (my only real

> 3. If I need something designed, I get a designer!
>     Which was where I started in this long thread.

any profession or craft has potential for mastery or mediocrity. if i need
something programmed i'll get a programmer, but i'll damn well look for a
good one!

lance g.