I just finished reading a review of “Are we Postcritical?,” a book about literary criticism.  It mentions things like Marxism and Structuralism used as the basis of literary criticism. It goes further to mention a stack of critical frameworks.

These critical frameworks are applied to all art forms from literature to sculpture to architecture to “design” in its various outlets. You might find a Structuralist critique of the iPhone. Or, a Marxist critique of some computer game.

But, developers hardly go looking for the critical reviews of their own art. We hear it on twitter. Designers tell us the UI’s of the 80’s and 90’s suck. Well, sure, had we been trying to serve the same users we serve today. I’ve got news for you, they didn’t suck. They served the geeks they were intended to serve. Nothing today serves geeks. Sorry geeks, but we serve consumers today. So today, we can think about that same stack of critical frameworks that gets applied to “design.”

To get to this “design” as a form of art, we would have to be artists. Yes, some Agilists come across as artists in their demand to be free from management and economic considerations and purposes. But, back in the early phase of the technology adoption lifecycle this wasn’t so. Under the software engineering approach, we had a phase called “design!” Yes, we applied critical frameworks that had nothing to do with literary criticism that were just as critical as these art and artist-oriented critical frameworks.

Every domain has its own critical frameworks. Before we drop a bomb, we take a photo. We drop a bomb, then we send another drone to take a photo. That photo is graded via a critical framework, and bombing is assessed. We could if we like apply a structuralist framework during this assessment, but mostly we’ll ask “Hey do we need to send another drone to take the target out?” “No, it’s a kill. Tell PR there was zero collateral damage.” That being just an example of a geek’s critical framework.

More to the point we might say O(n), which becomes possible once we have true parallelism. Yes, everything will have to be rewritten to pass the critical framework of algorithm design. Oh, that word again, “design.”

Accountants have critical frameworks. Likewise, hardware engineers and software developers. They just don’t happen to be artist-oriented frameworks. It just kills me when an artist-designer puts down the design critiqued by some unknown to them critical framework. And, it kills me that these designers want to be the CEO of firms selling to consumers without recognizing all the other critical frameworks that a CEO has to be responsive to like those of the SEC, FCC, and various attorney generals.

Design is the demarcation of and implementation of a balance between enablers and constraints be that with pastels and ink; plaster and pigments, or COBOL. The artist wants to send a message. The developer wants to ship a use case. What’s the difference? At some scale, none at all. Design, in it’s artistic/literary senses has yet to reach the literate/artistic code of developers. Design, in that art sense, is an adoption problem. But, we do have computers doing literary criticism, so one day computers will do code criticism. Have fun with that.

And, yes, since this is a product management blog, some day we’ll have a critical framework for product management. We already do, but who in the general public will be reading that in their Sunday papers? Maybe we’re supposed to be reading about it in the sports section. The sportscaster calling out the use of, oh, that design pattern.

Yes, artist-oriented design is important, as is brand. Have fun there, but there is a place, and that place is in the late phases of the technology adoption lifecycle, not the phases that birthed the category and value chains that underlay all that we do today. Late is not bad, it’s just limited to the considerations of cash, not wealth–oh, an economic critical framework.






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