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November 2005
December 2005

2005-11-05 »

Design Requires Persistence

People were teasing me a bit over the last few days because of my insistence that the room where we were relocating my desk was "evil." This wasn't me being a pest and refusing to move - this was the simple fact that the room's layout so violated my sense of aesthetics that I had to, in good conscience, refuse to work there.

Since I finally understood things back in August, one underlying, general rule has become extremely clear to me: good "design" consists of finding a way to satisfy all the constraints at once. I've always known that choosing a side in an argument and violently adhering to it, in opposition to other goals or other points of view, just felt wrong; but I had thought the alternative was compromise. It's not. In a compromise, your solution has each side giving in, so that nobody loses too badly. But the right solution to a problem, in fact, is a solution in which both sides get exactly what they want, despite how the two might seem initially to be opposites.

It is not about sacrificing the good of the one for the good of the many, or vice versa; it's the sacrifice itself that is wrong. You have to find a way that the good of the one is served perfectly at the same time as the good of the many.

In the end, after many hours, with advice from many people around the office (who tried to be helpful, despite visibly tolerating my obsessiveness) we finally found a "right" solution: no desk had to sacrifice itself to an inconvenient orientation, and yet the room at last found its coherency.

Was this worth it, to fuss for hours just for the trivial details of the layout of a single room? No, probably not in itself. But the larger purpose was to test myself, and to prove a point. The most important lesson of my life so far is that you don't have to settle for contradictions. This is not a lesson that has stood unchallenged. Better than that: it has been challenged, and it won.

Implementation Details

Special thanks to mich, whose tolerance was not visible, and, moreover, who actually did the work of "implementing the final design," so to speak.

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