One Cannot Not Design

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One cannot not communicate. – Paul Watzlawick

Philosopher and communication theorist Paul Watzlawick famously stated as one of his five axioms of group homoeostasis (the ability of a system to maintain its current state or equilibrium) that “one cannot not communicate”, meaning that it’s impossible to completely avoid communication.

Even the act of intentionally not communicating – by staying silent for example – is an act of communication. In the case of silence depending on the communication situation this could be interpreted is tacit agreement, disinterest or emphasis on what has been said before.

A fellow software engineer recently said to me that the absence or the opposite of design isn’t no design but bad design. I absolutely agree with this. Design is a form of communication, the absence of which doesn’t mean that there’s no communication, just bad or at least unintentional communication.

This is why software developers should always have design and design considerations in mind when building a piece of software. As a developer it’s dangerous to say “I’m just not good at design. So, I’ll just ignore it altogether.” because this inevitably leads to badly designed and difficult to use software.

As a developer it’s your job to create tools that help users accomplish a certain task in the easiest, most delightful way conceivable. You might not always succeed at that but you have to at least try.

Stating that you dispense with design altogether means conceding defeat before you’ve even begun!

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