Fred Brooks on Design Teams

The essay by Peter Merholz I linked to in the previous post reminded me of some things that Fred Brooks (who was my PhD adviser) said about teams and designers in his 1999 Turing award lecture titled "The Design of Design." That's also the title of his forthcoming book.

There are links here (CPSC 330 / Fred Brooks on Design) to video of an updated version of that talk and a 2003 summary PDF from which the following is excerpted:

Team Design—Collaboration and Telecollaboration.
Since at least the start of the 20th century, large design projects have been the work of teams, rather than solo designers. This change creates a new and crucial challenge, how to maintain conceptual integrity in such designs. I have elsewhere argued that this is a most important property of a design, and that separating the design of the user interface from the design of the means of implementing it enables one mind to master the user interface. I elaborate this into a discrete functional specialty, system architecture, whose importance I am prepared to defend fiercely.

Team design is occasioned both by the increasing sophistication of design specialties, so that one mind cannot master them all, and by the need to partition work to meet ever- more demanding schedules. I think it very important to differentiate clearly among aspects of design where collaboration positively helps, aspects where the work is partitionable so that collaboration may help schedule but not result quality, and aspects where collaboration positively impacts the conceptual integrity of the design.

A late-20th-century development that we barely begin to understand is telecollaboration, joint effort by noncollocated teams.

Great Designs Come from Great Designers, not from Great Design Processes. What makes a design great, or elegant, or cool? This is fundamentally an esthetic judgment, and we need more theory of engineering esthetics. We need to know how to teach it.

But I will defend the propositions that design process improvement, and even the development of a science of design, will raise the floor of design practice, but not the ceiling. Now raising the floor is superb, and very important. But what our hearts desire and our minds acclaim are great designs, not merely competent, sound, trustworthy ones. I am convinced that great designs come only from great designers. Hence a part of our challenge is to figure out how to identify, train, and nurture those to whom the innate gifts for great design have been entrusted.

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