Design & Multi-Way Solving

In childhood, teachers like to persuade us to solve one problem using different ways. I always think this is just a waste of time to solve repeating thing. What’s the value of this repeating work? During these days, I finally found that:

Use multiple ways to solve one problem is the fundamental quality to be a designer.

If you’re not interested in solving problems in bunches of ways and comparing these solutions as your hobby, you’re probably never good at designing.

My own math history teaches me in a different way. In math field, the problem that we need to solve is too complicated that one solution almost means the achievement. You often don’t need to spend time on organizing your work or find lots of other ways to solve it. Because most mathematician treat these work as trivial that only people lack of talent have to do these management work to shape a beautiful face of solution. Arrogant genius mathematicians always choose the work of creating a solution. They think the other’s organizing work has to be based on their genius creativity and means the second class important or just no value.

But that’s totally not the thinking way in designing/engineering. In the real world, the problem we face may not be as complicated as in math field. Thus the quality of one work is not depend on one solution, but elegant, appropriate solution, which sounds subjective and lack of science taste.

This is reasonable. Just as Elon Musk’s opinion about valuable work: the work that has value not always requires you to change the world. In fact, there’re two ways to be valuable/useful, that you can either do some radical innovation but only affect small number of people, or you can do some work with a little improvement but affect massive number of people.

Here, the math/design pair is the way running like above. As the depth of problems in design is not as large as math, you have to work on how to affect more people, which requires you to focus on exploring better elegant way. From the abstraction level, design’s working scope is horizontal, but math works in vertical level. In your design work, you’re already having lots of homogeneous solutions in one horizontal solving space. What you need to do is using your taste to compare all aspects of these solutions based on your understanding of the requirement you’re pursuing. The quality may mostly depend on your sharp insight of the problem itself and the macro scope of where you’re. That’s another dimensional concern may be ignored.

And to be different from math direct solving, this estimation work of design never ends. In math, solving the problem itself is the terminal point. But in design, it’s just the beginning of the next stage. You can always improve your work as your understanding goes deeper and your scope goes broader. And you also need to recognize one thing that: the meta problem of design is never the domain problem itself, which just means finding out solution is just the middle tier. Finding a better suitable way to express the problem and elegant way to organize the solution are the real work for designers!

Excellent designing work requires you to spend some time to set back, which is just like a painter to take a step back to feel his draft. When you just find one solution, you may obsess in the happiness of progress. But it may also mean a very naive coarse solution under design perspective. You just need time to let your brain your body to feel your solution and comparing things subconsciously and further consciously. You do need to have patient to resist the seduce of releasing from your problem and give yourself more time to estimate your work, combine more design options and shape better way to organize your work.

We all have different kinds of weak points inside ourselves. I think one good way to figure them out is experiencing different fields, i.e. jumping out your safe zone, the well-done field. And once you’re in different field, you’d know more about yourself, and find out more weak points of yourself that covered by your mature experienced skill in your familiar domain. In order to fix these things, you do need practice, which means keep the process of correcting your anti-humanity habits into high efficient ways.