From the Archives...


Notes on Design

[Extracted from The Manual, not dated, but circa 1982, probably produced in Boulder, Colorado by Taylor Associates, Inc.

[Editor's Note: The idea of design serves as one of the principal foundations of the MG Taylor philosophy. Design differs from other methods in some of the following ways:

  1. Design is an infinite game vs a finite game: players engage with each other for the purpose of continuing the play, not in order to win. There is no such thing as win-win because the term "win" implies--demands--a "lose." Winning is a foreign concept in design.

  2. Design is a non-zero-sum game (a different way of saying it's an infinite game). Instead of focusing on dividing up the board or the pie between competitors or collaborators, the players spend time creating more board and changing the rules.

  3. Design comes in two stages: creating the problem and then solving it.

  4. Success in design depends upon iterations instead of taking one shot at a solution. The vision is constantly re-created. This is different than contingency planning.

  5. Design combines options in order to eliminate them; other methods choose between or prioritize options in order to eliminate them. An MG Taylor axiom illustrates the principle: "Adding someone else's experience to your experience--creating a new experience--is possibly valuable." Another term of art employed by MG Taylor to express the concept is "AND." Alignment is created not by consensus or majority vote, but by recasting the vision into a viable solution that includes as many vantage points and options as possible.


"To mark out." A design establishes the boundaries within which an idea or conception is brought into reality by action. The design boundaries become more "tightly" defined and precisely delineated each step of the design formation: program, schematic concept, preliminary design, design development, contract documents, production management, and evaluation.

Design-Build-Use Cycle
Presently we separate design, production and using, thereby minimizing cooperation and feedback between what are, in fact, three stages of one cycle. Much gain in productivity can be accomplished by managing the "no man's land" between the established professional enclaves centered on the "stages" of this cycle. The complexity of the problems caused by our habit of taking a "parts" view, will soon require that we see and manage the Design-build-use cycle as a total system in all areas of human activity.

Decision by Design
Traditional decision-making procedures rely extensively on the data being complete and accurate and the logic of the decision process being faultless. In organizations, this tends to support authority and credibility based on past accomplishments while discounting new information and ideas. The traditional decision-making procedure tends to go through the process once, in a linear manner, and tries to establish a "permanent" answer. Decision by Design is a commitment to go through the design process again and again while "reality testing" the parts as they emerge and get applied "in the field." If the process of design is properly managed and comprehensively approached then inappropriate design assumptions and decisions "fall away" leaving--from the number of choices originally perceived--the final design most fit for use. Decision by design is best accomplished in a Management Center environment, utilizing DesignTeams working through a managed yet open-ended process. Specific tools are essential, such as use of Zwicky Box analysis, and careful facilitation and documentation. because of educational and cultural bias, at first, Decision by Design is an uncomfortable concept to the manager; yet it is merely a formalization of the decision method we all use in many informal circumstances, and all complex or long-range projects. Decision by Design requires direct and fast feedback from the field--the design process is not completed until the project is complete. While requiring an up front time investment, Decision by Design imposes, long term, a far smaller management burden than the traditional decision process.

Design Strategy
The overall approach to solution seeking; used in conjunction with performance specifications it prevents design compromise by allowing the maximum amount of flexibility throughout the design-build-use process. The specific design solution emerges as a result of the process, not as a preconceived notion that everything that follows is forced into. A design strategy can be called a design of a design.

Design Trade-off
As opposed to design compromise where the result is less than the resources allow, a design trade-off involves the balancing of opposing attributes within a context established by a clear mission statement. For example, the trade-offs between speed, gas mileage, comfort, load capacity, luxury and cost in an automobile design can only be determined within the context of the intended use and market and the manufacturer's technical capacity at the time of manufacture. Establishing adequate design trade-off models is possible only with exact performance specifications.

copyright © 1997, MG Taylor Corporation. All rights reserved
copyrights, terms and conditions


© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

iteration 3.5