Volume 6

Volume 6, Number 45

October 28, 2008

18 pages1099 K bytes

Hammers, Nails, Windows, Doors and Teaching Great Design

Leslie J. Waguespack, Jr.
Bentley College
Waltham, MA 02154-4705 USA

Abstract: The earliest notions of quality, computer-based information system design revolved around reducing downtime and eliminating “programming mistakes.” The development life cycle of many systems lasted half-decades. Today information system stakeholders expect development life cycles measured in months and adaptation or realignment of computer-based functionality in a few weeks, if not days. Achievements like these require an extreme level of coordination and integration in the modeling used to assimilate, analyze and represent the various aspects of the information system throughout a system’s life span. Teaching information systems professionals to conceive and model systems to meet these challenges requires a new perspective on what great design is about. What characteristics do models need to achieve these efficiencies? How are these models judged in reaching stakeholder satisfaction? What constitutes a good model, a great model? And what processes need to be in place to achieve good, even great models? For at least the last fifty years software engineering has wrestled with these questions. The innovation in this writing is that we cast these questions in a new light – introducing a treatment of system knowledge within a single, unifying theory of modeling quality drawing on an experience of physical system architecture. This paper explores the qualities that define good, even great design as characterized by a leading theorist of physical architecture and the patriarch of pattern languages and design patterns, Christopher Alexander. We map his concepts to design principles for information system models depicting: requirements, analysis, design, implementation, business and business processes.

Keywords: modeling, design, quality design characteristics, information systems education, art and physical systems architecture, teaching great design

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Recommended Citation: Waguespack (2008). Hammers, Nails, Windows, Doors and Teaching Great Design. Information Systems Education Journal, 6 (45). http://isedj.org/6/45/. ISSN: 1545-679X. (A preliminary version appears in The Proceedings of ISECON 2007: §3324. ISSN: 1542-7382.)