You cannot often choose the projects that you work on.  However, the ones you work on should reflect your principles, your asthetic sensibilities, even with all the compromises that necessarily have to take place between conception and production.

But when does it get to the point where, like Daniel Libeskind (who removed his name from the Freedom Tower project), you are prepared to take your name off of a project whose demands and compromises alter the design so substantially that it is not your creation any more?

This is certainly not new.  In the film industry, for many years, when a director wanted to take his name off of a film, it was credited to the psuedonum “Alan Smithee.”  That name has racked up quite a career! (see Wikipedia article on Alan Smithee).

So, what is the line that you won’t cross? 

Perhaps we don’t have enough software projects where the architect is well known.  Does anyone care who the architect is?  Honestly, who remembers the name of the architect of the colosseum in Rome?  What about the architect for your home… do you know his name? 

On the other hand, I can easily imagine a day where software architects compete as individuals, just as building architects and movie directors do, for the right to work on a project of high visibility and importance.

And I can easily imagine a day when a software architect will want to take his name off of the system. 

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

2 thoughts on “Taking your name off of a project”
  1. My uncle is an architect (building, that is). I am a fan of movies. Interestingly, when I was young, I, like most people, noticed the actors in the films more than the directors. But these days I pay about as much attention to both. Architects are not necessarily people looking for wide acclaim. And the credits in a film are more for people in the industry than the public. But occasionally, a director, and even an architect (software or building) manages to get widely recognized.

    As a little of both architect and developer, I can certainly see taking my name off of a project, though I would be more likely to walk away from the company if it came to that. But the reason I would do it is because it would harm my career to be associated with it.

    Thankfully, that has yet to happen to me.

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