Similarity Between Writing and Designing

Quote of the Day

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.

— Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry and Peace

I have always been interested in the actual process of design and its similarity to other tasks. I was reading an interesting blog post this morning on the process of writing. The author said that while writing, the good writer must really play three different roles while writing a document:

  • Visionary
    The Visionary develops the ideas that the document will convey.
  • Draft Worker
    The Draft Worker puts the ideas down on paper. The first draft is rough, but the ideas are down on paper where they can be worked with.
  • Editor
    The Editor is responsible for putting out the polished final product. This is a detail job and quality is king.

The design process for an engineer is really very similar. While designing a product, the good engineer must also play three roles.

    • Concept Developer
      All designs begin with some overall concept of how the product is supposed to work. The concept is complete when the overall approach is clear and all that is left are the details of implementation. These details are important, but they usually involve making choices that could go any of a number of ways. Examples would include connector pinouts, non-critical part selections, circuit card dimensions, etc.
    • Detailer
      The Detailer takes the concept and creates the first draft of the design. There are always numerous ways of implementing any concept and the Detailer must make all the detailed choices required to make a physical embodiment of the design.
    • Quality Assurance
      One the design is captured, now the completeness of the solution needs to be evaluated. All designs have quality criteria that they are evaluated against, like cost, power, performance, etc. There will a lot of editing going on during this phase.

Of course, in the real world the engineer (like the writer) will iterate between all these roles. For example, while playing the Detailer role, it is common for the engineer to find a problem with the concept. This means that engineer must flip back into the Concept Developer role and fix the problem.

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