2012-11-20

Design Demons: The Pragmatist Demon

An earlier post gave an overview of the design demons: Creative, Critic and Pragmatist. This post takes a closer look at the Pragmatist Demon. A designer should develop ability in each of the each of their demons so that the overall team is stronger.

The Pragmatist demon ensures that things gets done. The Pragmatist can be overly economical and un-ambitious in the quest to get things completed. When the Critic Demon is insisting on quality and the Creative demon is insisting on novelty, an overly strong pragmatist can overrule these to complete a solution that is too watered down. The Critic demon is most useful at the beginning of a project (feasibility) and at near the end (deadline crunch). The Pragmatist demon will stifle good ideas from the Creative demon if the Pragmatist is too loud during the concepting phase. The Pragmatist demon's favourite word is: trade-off.

The problem with trade-offs is that the value of a project can be deleteriously compromised if the novelty or quality is watered down.

The underdeveloped Pragmatist demon is unable to set and meet deadlines. The underdeveloped Pragmatist will allow the Creative demon too long to discover the perfect idea and allow the Critic demon to continually nitpick at problems in the design. A person with a weak Pragmatist demon may be full of good ideas and even have some projects started - but little is actually finished.

The strength of the Pragmatist demon can be improved through practice. Set clear constraints (budget, materials, deadlines) for projects and stick to them. Completing work is the life-force of this demon. Any study into process, workflow and project management will permanently strengthen this demon. Writing proposals and problem solving in constrained situations are the Pragmatic demon's gym workout.

The noisy pragmatist will unnecessarily hurry the Creative and Critic demons into doing substandard work. The noisy Pragmatist will discourage the Creative demon by saying the ideas are impractical. By prematurely constraining the Creative demons then concepts might be unnecessary weak. The noisy Pragmatist might overrule the quality decisions of the Critic and this could ruin the polish of the project. However, a noisy pragmatist that gets work out the door is probably the least worst noisy demon because getting stuff done matters most.

A noisy Pragmatist demon can be taught to speak only in turn. Force yourself to use a standard process for projects and do not deviate from the standard process without permission from a mentor. Allow the Creative and Critic demons space to speak before applying "practical" constraints.

A weak Pragmatist demon is best trained through the successful completion of many projects. One way to do this by setting constrained projects (time, budget, other) that must have an output. This will improve the Pragmatist's ability to estimate feasibility going into a project and the constraints will force the Pragmatist to balance priorities in the later stages.

A strong Pragmatist demon is important for a designer to select good projects and complete them on time and in budget. Working to improve the Critic demon will give long term benefit to the designer because completed projects are better than incomplete projects.