Spolsky on Design

By Deane Barker on February 4, 2006

Great Design: What is Design? (First Draft): Here’s a great rant from Spolsky about what makes good design and how hard it is to get there.

He has a great bit in the middle about the conflicts present when deciding whether or not to put a mute button on a phone. I normally would think this was simple, but I’ve heard this “features add more complexity than you first think” rant before from the 37 Signals guys when we went to their workshop.

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.”

This is the first entry a series Spolsky is writing called “Great Design.” And — like the Rough Cuts thing we posted on earlier — Spolsky is posting them twice, in rough draft and then final form.

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