Thursday, November 29, 2012

Design Philosophy Shapes a Nation

In his November 29th Per Square Mile piece, Tim De Chant tells us about looking down from a flight between Boston and Chicago to see the ribbon farms in what used to be Nouvelle-France.

The idea is that long, thin farms were established along an existing transportation route, in this case the St. Lawrence River (but the concept applies equally well to roads), this maximized efficiency in getting good from many farms to market (more access to transportation for more farms), and provided other benefits that he describes much better than I can.

The ribbon farms arrayed to share river frontage more compactly were a French tradition, and are uncommon in North America.  Square farms -- parcels plotted out and transportation figured out later -- became the standard.  That led to lots of road building and shaped the landscape we see in the US and Canada today.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Get Struck in Analysis

Michael Allen's Leaving ADDIE for SAM, reviewed at, looks worth a read. The preface is available as a free download from Allen Interactions (yes, they will want your contact info).

The point is that the time-honored ADDIE model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) used in instructional design is not exactly, shall we say, nimble. It's slow, cumbersome, and does not always lead to a good, finished product. It's too easy to get sucked into endless trips back to the drawing board. 

He says "The foundation of any traditional process is an accurate analysis. You can’t move forward until the analysis is complete and flawless – the problem with that is no analysis can ever be complete and certainly not flawless. So, training departments get stuck in the Analysis Paralysis – and the schedule slips and keeps slipping."

Allen suggests SAM --the Successive Approximation Model -- as a replacement.  Sketch a broad picture of the product you're designing, then go into depth, then iterate/refine -- but only a few times. I've worked on too many project that are in revision as soon as they launch -- I think he's onto something here.

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