Design: Milton Glaser

“Design is simply planning. My definition of design is this: it is going from an existing position to a preferred one. It’s everything.”
— Milton Glaser, from an address given at Brigham Young University on Sept. 28, 2006.


One thought on “Design: Milton Glaser

  1. Perhaps with context I would enjoy this quote more. I think that the quote, as above, is somewhat of a platitude. There is nothing simple about the design of any non-trivial thing, design is not just planning, and it is worse than useless to say “it’s everything”.

    Perhaps an equivalently bad definition of testing would be this: “Testing is simply making sure that it is right. My definition of testing is this: it’s checking that the software is going to work. It really needs to be done.”

    Here are at least two of the issues that are trivialized by this design definition:

    1. What differentiates “good” design from “bad”design? Is it how quickly you get to the preferred position? If you can’t ever achieve the preferred position fully, is it a measure of how close you can get? What about cost/benefit trade off? What about how easily the “moving forward” adapts to a moving “preferred position”?

    2. One of the points not discussed here at all is moving from one level of abstraction to another. It’s a computationally intractable problem and requires the types of heuristics that (currently) only human beings can learn and employ. In software, for sure, little is known about how to transfer heuristics from one human to another, or how to evaluate the heuristics themselves.

    When I was your grad student, you once said, “Anytime you can reduce a complex issue to a slogan, you’re wrong”. You were speaking about politics, but I think such a statement applies to technical discussions as well

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