Making Pots – Personally and Professionally Rewarding

When our touch screen designers are between project assignments, they’re busy making pots. Yes, pots. Pots, in our case, are simple interface design concepts. We started calling them pots after reading about an interesting experiment mentioned in the book “Art & Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

Briefly, here’s the story …

A ceramics class was divided into two groups. One group was told they would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced. (Fifty pounds of pots – to be weighed on the teacher’s bathroom scale on the last day of class – would get them an A, 40 pounds would get them a B, and so on.) The other group was told they would be graded solely on the quality of the work they produced. In other words, they could get an A by producing only one perfect pot.

One bad to many good pots

The surprising result? “The works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Implementing this insight isn’t as easy as it may sound. The best designers are obsessed with detail. Their challenge is to stay focused and invest just enough time in a design to get their idea down. Doing any more than that just increases the value of what’s scrapped if the design doesn’t make the cut.

Our designers spend anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days on each of their pots. The best ones are shared in a weekly design review meeting. Pots that show the most promise are given the green light to be refined and ultimately considered for production. The rest? Well, sometimes they’re reworked and come back in a different form. But most of the time, our designers move on to something completely new.

In the end, everyone wins. Our designers get better and faster. Our clients get quality work. And that’s good for business.

© 2009 Morgan Strauss

  1. Any chance to see some of these “pots” ?

  2. @kb. I like the idea. Maybe along with our next release, we can publish a preview image of the evolution of pots that inspired it.

  3. this was a nice post, can it be that the group that just need to make one pot are over thinking it. and the ones that just needs to make a lot of pots. takes one ide then bilds it up as they go along. and lern from there mistakes (as u said in the artical). but i like where this is going.

    sorry for my bad speling.

    best regards

  4. Very good analogy. I have experienced the perfectionist 🙂 and i have wasted my time pursuing a project that never got the green light.

  5. I’ve never heard the pots story before but it makes perfect sense. I’ve experienced this in my own Crestron programming where early on I tried to plan every detail of a program out and got decent results. But after turning out a bunch of quickie tasks without much thought my programs got better and better. This may be comparable to a formal education vs. someone who learned on their own through on the job training or trial and error.

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