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Design + Development

When you need to develop something new, do you start with a designer or a developer? Yes, that's a trick question.

Specialization in the workplace, i.e. division of labor, has a long history of effective application. If one person is doing too many disparate tasks, it tends to be inefficient. This being the case, in the realm of creative process things are typically approached from two fronts, design and development. The division is often firmly enforced; logic and presentation are separated. Educational institutions, in an effort to reflect the ideals of current methodology, often specialize more directly toward one side of that coin or the other. It is common in the workplace to find literal, "left-brained" developers trying to coordinate with passionately abstract "right-brain" designers and encountering some roadblocks. Businesses struggle to find balanced and professional results when it comes to creative process. There is no doubt that design plus development is effective, but have we lost efficiency in the long run by polarizing the two halves of a whole?

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."
~ Henry Ford ~

Left + Right

It seems that the natural makeup of the human brain tends to align each person toward certain patterns of thought and ways of interacting with the world. Philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists have explored the intricacies of the brain and how it drives our interaction with each other. Although we know a significant amount of interesting aspects of how our brains work, there is at least as much that we do not know. Most have heard of right-brain and left-brain functions, a concept that was first researched in depth by Roger Sperry. The left brain primarily processes "logic" oriented information; language, analysis, and critical thinking; It brings process and structure. The right brain provides spatial, visual and emotional context; It brings feeling and abstract thought. We like to describe ourselves as right or left brained in nature, but this only presents part of the story. None of us could function well at all if the two sides of the brain were truly separate. In fact the halves are made to work as a whole, and our two cerebral hemispheres produce the most powerful results when working in harmony. 

"Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible."
~ George Washington Carver ~


True and productive creativity is a "conjunction of the (hemi)spheres," and those who can access and coordinate both sides of their mind make effective and powerful creators. There are many excellent studies that support this (here and here are a few articles). Design and development use complimentary mental processes. In fact individuals who coordinate logic and presentation within their own skill-set can be very effective, having deeper insight into the two halves of the whole. My career has grown in interesting ways because of the ability to bring a measure of creativity to the table which includes imagination, passion, forethought, logic, and situational context. I work to find solutions that are fresh in their presentation, effective in achieving the purposes intended, and reproducible in their application. I encourage those of you who are involved in development to strengthen your "right brain" and find something to be passionate about in your work. And on the "right brain" side of things practice forthought, planning, and process in your work. You will not regret it, and neither will your coworkers or employers.

"We see a lot of feature-driven product design in which the cost of features is not properly accounted. Features can have a negative value to customers because they make the products more difficult to understand and use. We are finding that people like products that just work. It turns out that designs that just work are much harder to produce that designs that assemble long lists of features."
~ Douglas Crockford, JavaScript: The Good Parts ~