Book Review–The Design of Design by Fred Brooks

First of all, Design of Design is not a book for casual readers. This isn’t one of those books which you could read without getting involved. Author, Fred Brooks earlier wrote ‘The Mythical Man-Month’ and is well known for his involvement in the design of IBM’s OS/360 – so the book brings in a lot of anecdotes and insights from Fred.

The book brings perspective from a computer scientist on the finer aspects of design and is divided in 6 partsdesign of design – Models of Designing, Collaboration and Telecollaboration, Design perspectives, Dream System for Designing Houses, Great Designers and Case studies.

The book gets into the depth of design process, team interactions , few perspective on waterfall model (and Boehm’s Spiral Model) and drives couple of interesting points (like bold design decisions lead to better outcomes).

If you are a Designer/Product Manager who believes that design is way beyond UI and can see the bigger picture, this book is for you.

The book mainly aimed at large teams brings one of the most important element in the entire development cycle, i.e. of collaboration between the different stake holders and maintaining the conceptual integrity of the product.

‘Design of Design’ brings several debates and discussions to the core aspect of design – for instance, are two member teams the most optimal?

The typical dynamics of two-person design collaboration seem different from those of multi-person design and solo design. Two people will interchange ideas rapidly and informally, with neither a protocol as to who has the floor nor domination by one partner. Each holds the floor for short bursts. The process switches rapidly among micro-sessions of proposal, review and critique, counterproposal, synthesis, and resolution. There is typically a single thread of idea development, without the maintenance of separate individual threads of thought as in multi-person discussions.

Two pencils may move over the same paper with neither collision nor contradiction. “As iron sharpens iron,” each stimulates the other to more active thought than might occur in solo design. Perhaps the very need to articulate one’s thinking—to state why as well as what— causes quicker perception of one’s own fallacies and quicker recognition of other viable design alternatives

Case studies by Fred Brooks is probably why every designer should read this book – ranges from design of beach house, kitchen remodelling to IBM OS/360.  Having said that, I was quite disappointed of the fact that Fred hasn’t looked at one of the most important relationship in the design cycle – that of Product Manager and Designers.

Do give the book a read, if you are interested in understanding the process behind complex design.

[Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book by Pearson, the publishing company.]

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