One potential often missed in a large IT organization is the potential for us to lift up another person’s design skills.  Perhaps we are competitive, or perhaps sometimes, we figure that “it’s all the same anyway,” but a lot of IT project designers don’t want to show their designs to other folks.

But if I never look at your designs, how will I improve?  And if you never allow me to offer feedback to your design, how will you improve?

Artists get this right.  So do craftsmen.  Emphasis is placed on being recognized.  For that to happen, your design has to be in an understandable media, and has to be on display.  Not on a shelf where someone COULD go look at it if they want to, but on DISPLAY, where other folks have no choice but to see it. 

And then, not just to see it, but to compare, critique, appreciate, and exemplify.  There need to be design competitions, and the winning of a design competition should mean something tangible, like a greater chance of moving up or a bigger bonus or even public praise and acclaim.

Smaller companies that don’t have so many IT workers may not be able to participate, but they should be able to partake of the results.  Acclaim should extend beyond the walls.

We do have “showcase” apps in Microsoft IT, but only where it will sell a product or illustrate how to solve a problem with MS tools.  Not so much as a mandatory mechanism to bring out the best in IT design.

Otherwise, good design happens when a good designer accidentally has a good day or is accidentally assigned to a project that they would be good at.  I mean “accidentally” because something is either an expression of the system that produces it, or it is an accident of the combination of skilled people and a project that suits them. 

Making good design a part of the system, reinforcing it, rewarding it, and heaping public praise and acclaim on those who practice it will go a long way towards making excellence in design a normal part of life.

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 “When good design is not an accident”
  1. Nice point.

    I recently asked for any sample of Beautiful Java Code, but didn’t get any replies.

    I maybe should instead have asked for any code that anyone has published that they don’t think is crap.

    It’s spurred me to publish something myself, which I’m doing (though, I admit, I’m polishing some concepts just for this exercise, which means that they weren’t up-to-scratch in the first place) – do you know of any code that’s published, that we can read, and that the author thinks is OK?

    And don’t get me started on sourceforge: I just can’t find great stuff; crucial here is documentation, and JavaDocs alone just don’t cut it.

    Does Microsoft have a place where they publish … well, not entire applications, but not just tutorial snippets either? And most important: does someone thing these postings are good?

    .ed

  2. Try GotDotNet.  Another place would be a couple of the more visible open source systems (nUnit comes to mind, as does DotNetNuke).  With lots of hands in the code, good docs are a must.  Plus refactoring happens a lot.

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