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The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist

by Frederick P. Brooks

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251385,136 (3.5)None
Making Sensenbsp;of Design nbsp; Effective design is at the heart of everything from software development to engineering to architecture. But what do we really know about the design process? What leads to effective, elegant designs? The Design of Design addresses these questions. nbsp; These new essays by Fred Brooks contain extraordinary insights for designers in every discipline. Brooks pinpoints constants inherent in all design projects and uncovers processes and patterns likely to lead to excellence. Drawing on conversations with dozens of exceptional designers, as well as his own experiences in several design domains, Brooks observes that bold design decisions lead to better outcomes. nbsp; The author tracks the evolution of the design process, treats collaborative and distributed design, and illuminates what makes a truly great designer. He examines the nuts and bolts of design processes, including budget constraints of many kinds, aesthetics, design empiricism, and tools, and grounds this discussion in his own real-world examples--case studies ranging from home construction to IBM's Operating System/360. Throughout, Brooks reveals keys to success that every designer, design project manager, and design researcher should know. nbsp;… (more)
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Interesting stuff! Brooks examines not of what makes designs good or bad, but instead various issues around how designers come up with designs - the process of design. He looks at the subject from several different perspectives, since he himself has designed computer hardware (architectures), software, houses (his own), and books. Along the way he looks at questions including how designers can be enabled to work creatively, what "style" is and how it fits into design, collaboration versus solo design, and more.

The first 20 chapters are more closely connected than one might expect from a collection of essays; they definitely demand to be read serially, rather than standing alone. The next seven chapters are case studies in design, of various projects the author participated over a 40-year period, in the four areas mentioned above. Finally, there is a short chapter listing some recommended reading, including a number of seminal books and papers in the computing field.

Unlike a traditional book in either computing or design theory, this is a very personal book. The author carefully states his conclusions as opinions, backed up his own experiences as well as by referenced literature. This is both good and bad; not all of Brooks's points seem well supported by evidence he provides; it's hard to tell in those cases whether his position is actually weak, or whether he's simply failed - intentionally or otherwise - to provide all the support he actually has for it.

Regardless, Brooks is an unquestionably skilled and influential computer scientist, and anyone who is interested in the craft of computing should read this book. However, while there might be some points of interest for people in other fields, I'm not certain that it would be of as much value to, say, an architect or a graphic designer. ( )
  JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
Definitely not required reading for all designers but a pleasant and useful one for some of them nevertheless

For some people there comes a time when they have spent more than five decades in their career and they can have a deep look at various projects they have accomplished, and talk about the common themes, as well as the distilled lessons they learned throughout a lifetime. If they also happen to be good writers as well as having lots of very successful achievements in industrial settings as well as academic and personal ones, then the reader of their work is lucky indeed. The Design of Design is one such book, at least for some readers.

Even though the book has many qualities, I consider it important to warn the casual reader: You are facing a book full of deep principles and abstractions. No matter how many concrete examples you may encounter in different chapters, the discussion of principles behind those examples are not to be taken lightly, Brook’s often refers to the works of Christopher Alexander, an architect, designer, mathematician and cognitive scientist, not only famous for his work in architecture and design, but also for inspiring the famous “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software” book as well as his non-mainstream writings. This alone should be enough evidence for the knowledgeable reader that Brook’s book aims to be something more than a passing attempt at discussing a few design principles.

Apart from that warning, I can say that, if you are a software or computer engineer with more than 9-10 years of experience under your belt, during which you struggled with big, complex and collaborative projects as well as giving some serious thought to design issues, you might very well enjoy the book and even want to read it twice, reflecting on how themes from very different areas such as computer hardware design, complex software design and a summer-house design come to have some surprising common points.

If you are not a very experienced designer or engineer, someone junior with only a few years of experience, then I suggest you read The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) and then come back to The Design of Design after a few years. After all, the timeless discussions regarding the fundamental issues of designing complex systems and structures will not change very much in a few years. ( )
1 vote EmreSevinc | Sep 25, 2013 |
While I like his thinking and writing I just didn't find much in this book that hasn't already been said elsewhere. It might be a bit unfair to compare this to his other work, The Mythical Man Month, but I just don't see this being as foundational as that work was. Mostly because I think the industry has changed and the things he writes about here are actively being considered by today's professionals.

I'm somewhat dismayed at my own inability to find interest in reading his house design case studies. I'm not sure if this is a reflection on the studies or on my inability to consider design from another industry.
2 vote jcopenha | Jun 24, 2010 |
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Making Sensenbsp;of Design nbsp; Effective design is at the heart of everything from software development to engineering to architecture. But what do we really know about the design process? What leads to effective, elegant designs? The Design of Design addresses these questions. nbsp; These new essays by Fred Brooks contain extraordinary insights for designers in every discipline. Brooks pinpoints constants inherent in all design projects and uncovers processes and patterns likely to lead to excellence. Drawing on conversations with dozens of exceptional designers, as well as his own experiences in several design domains, Brooks observes that bold design decisions lead to better outcomes. nbsp; The author tracks the evolution of the design process, treats collaborative and distributed design, and illuminates what makes a truly great designer. He examines the nuts and bolts of design processes, including budget constraints of many kinds, aesthetics, design empiricism, and tools, and grounds this discussion in his own real-world examples--case studies ranging from home construction to IBM's Operating System/360. Throughout, Brooks reveals keys to success that every designer, design project manager, and design researcher should know. nbsp;

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