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The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  522 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Making Sense of Design Effective design is at the heart of everything from software development to engineering to architecture. But what do we really know about the design process? What leads to effective, elegant designs? The Design of Design addresses these questions. These new essays by Fred Brooks contain extraordinary insights for designers in every discipline. Brooks ...more
Paperback, 421 pages
Published March 26th 2010 by Addison-Wesley Professional (first published March 10th 2010)
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3.75  · 
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 ·  522 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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William Blair
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
No words I might add to the still-growing tide of reviews of Dr. Brooks' latest book would ever convince anyone to buy and read it. You either already know who Frederick P. Brooks, Ph.D is, or you don't. The sad thing is, like his other popular book, The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, 20th Anniversary Edition (TMMM), most who will comment on it will never have read it completely, cover-to-cover, and understood much, if anything, in it. In the online world we find ourselves i ...more
David Workman
This is quite an interesting book, delving in quite some depth into what makes a good design, a good designer, and asking (and answering) many important questions related to these topics. It stays quite process-agnostic, instead expounding the view that the important things are:
- To have some form of design process
- To have good designers
- To give your designers the power to actually design
- To ignore the formal design process as required to make a good design

The structure of the book will be fa
Mar 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: it, own-paper-copy
Every time I start a new book it is excitement: imagination grasps everything from the reviews to the cover to draw new universe of thoughts.
What one can expect from Frederick Brooks? Author of one of the classical books in software development The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering?

I must say I expected more or rather I expected something else.. The book is over bloated and written in highly academical manner difficult to read. It is full of references to "The Mythical Man-Month
Michael Scott
I bumped into The Design of Design accidentally, while browsing the Kindle store for Peopleware and The Mythical Man-Month. I'm just glad I did: from the moment I picked up this book, I regretted every second I could not spend on it.

In The Design of Design, Frederick P. Brooks Jr. starts from the premise that the process of designing anything---computers, software, houses, books, and organizations are the prime examples used in this book---follows very similar processes, when the outcome needs t
Erika RS
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: software, owned, physical
This is a book of essays from Fred Brooks, author of The Mythical Man-Month . A number of the essays are excellent. A couple were positively dull. The rest were in the middle.

Brooks' aim in this book is to talk about the process of design in a way that is reasonably general. In that respect, I think he fails. I think if you're not designing computer systems, the essays on design will not provide a good overlap with the reader's experience. But if you are, you'll likely find much that is valuab
Dave Peticolas
Another book on design, but this one emphasizes the actual practice of design and how to make it better. The first two-thirds or so is just excellent. Brooks's contention is that the best designs always come from either a single designer or (at most) two designers working very closely together. The reason is that the quality most important to a great design is conceptual integrity, an attribute that "design by committee" can never achieve. But design reviews are best done by multitudes, bringing ...more
Yevgeniy Brikman
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this, as I was hoping that studying the design process would help me become a better designer. Unfortunately, the book wasn't particularly insightful, and I don't think I took away any lessons that will impact my design process or abilities.

In part, this is because the book tries to focus on all types of design—how to design a house, how to design software, how to design a computer, how to design a tool for designing, etc—rather than focusing on one discipline. As a result
Ole Laursen
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fred Brooks discusses the flaws of the waterfall model and the importance of all parties in a project that involves design (in a wide sense, including design of systems, of software, of houses) to learn about the problem domain and to use the knowledge gained to improve the design, incrementally.

The book contains a lot of discussion and back and forth which is probably less interesting to many readers, although I personally enjoyed the glimpse into the world of a former IBM chief, but it also ma
Margaret Heller
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology, design
Thinking about how design works and models for design is important, even if the models are imperfect. Brooks describes the importance of models, flaws in the commonly used models, and some ways to think about better models and the types of practical problems that arise in design. I think given the structure it's harder to pick out a coherent argument, but there are some important ideas in here. I admit I totally skimmed all the case studies, since I didn't think they added all that much other th ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book provides excellent insight into the design process. Its amazing to discover how engineers posses a implicit view of the design process. Call engineers systematic thinkers or whatever, But that doesn't really help achieve a better design process. This book address the weaknesses of a rational model of design. Coherent and easily readable.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering
In 1961-1965, in his early 30s, Frederick Brooks was the project manager of the IBM System/360 and OS/360 project, one of the most successful engineering projects in history. Called "I.B.M.'s $5,000,000,000 gamble", this project succeeded enormously, and transformed not only the company and the industry, but the entire civilization: the computer architecture and it successors, and the operating system and its successors have been the de facto standard for mainframe computers ever since (of cours ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: acquired
Yes, it took me about a year and a half to read this. Parts of it can be dry. Parts of it are quite engaging.

What is design? What needs to be designed? How does one go about this? For each of these questions, there is no one, single answer. And different answers may be better than others, depending on the context.

I originally tumbled to this book while reading another one. It mentions the Comanche, a prototype scout/attack helicopter which I find quite interesting. The poor thing was doomed from
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting stuff! Brooks examines not of what makes designs good or bad, but instead various issues around how designers come up with designs - the process of design. He looks at the subject from several different perspectives, since he himself has designed computer hardware (architectures), software, houses (his own), and books. Along the way he looks at questions including how designers can be enabled to work creatively, what "style" is and how it fits into design, collaboration versus solo d ...more
Sten Vesterli
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting thoughts from one of the grand old men of the young field of Information Technology, Fred Brooks (of "Mythical Man-Month" fame). This book is in six parts of varying relevance.

In part I, Brooks reflects on design methods, the problems with waterfall and how to improve it, and in part II, he discusses collaboration and distributed teams. These parts show the age of the book (it was written in 2010) and is of limited use in todays where we have agile and good tool support for virtual
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is the natural antithesis to "The Science of the Artificial", as it demonstrates where design science really stands (and in what poor shape it is according to design practice). Turing-award winner Fred Brooks is a nice counterweight to the Turing (and Nobel) winning Herbert Simon, not a theoretical genius who revolutionized several fields but a practical project manager who assisted in making a corporation a lot of money. What this book is clearly leading up to is a synthesis, a decisi ...more
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
The most influential professional book I have ever read was Frederick Brooks' classic The Mythical Man-Month. That was a book primarily for software developers, managers, and particularly managers OF software developers. It was drawn largely from Brooks' experience managing the development of the ground-breaking IBM System/360 mainframe operating system in the early and mid-1960s.

Now Brooks has articulated more of his professional and life experiences. In The Design of Design, he gives his views
Muhammad Khan
Jan 23, 2016 rated it did not like it
With all due respect to Mr. Brooks, this book is a failure, compared to his previous, now infamous "Mythical Man-Month" which was the only reason I bought "Design of Design" in the hope of being inspired.
There is nothing new in this book, Brooks is trapped in his old world of reflections about his past encounters, writing in a style that is not fit for the modern-day audience, i.e. the younger generation.
Whilst I cannot really fault the book for its facts and in depth reference material, the ma
Mike Barretta
Jun 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: not-owned, nonfiction
Overall the book came across rather scattershot, but there were enough good gems and bibliographic references to add weight. Nominally, the book is about issues, problems, and solutions incumbent in the process of design. The later half of the book is a series of case studies of design work done by the author in various realms (home architecture, computer architecture, ogranizations, etc), and is mostly useful as a reference, I think. In other words, you can't read the case-studies as prose and ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
The first half of this book is a wonderful collection of essays that anyone who enjoys examples of how software designers can learn from designers in other fields should read. The second half is an assortment of case studies, ranging from a remodeling project to a book project, to IBM projects. The case studies are less compelling but add some background for those who want more examples. The book also has many references to learn more. If you are a student of Patterns or agile software developme ...more
Mike Thompson
The author, Frederick Brooks, is probably best known for classic study of how software engineering is done, "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering" ( In "The Design of Design" he again distills his extensive experience into many profound observations. This time, his focus is on software design. Don't expect this book to teach how to design software, because it doesn't. The author's eye is on understanding the mental model of how humans d ...more
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: have, software
Dr. Brooks is the author of the famed "The Mythical Man Month," a seminal book engineering teams and productivity. This book discusses how to think about design and design problems based on his life's experience at IBM and Academia. The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars was that the examples towards the end of the novel were not that engaging. The writing style was unassuming and funny at times, and its highly recommended for anyone who is interested in Design. The book is filled with great ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: programming
Interesting perspectives on design with a good selection of case studies. My main take away from the book is that while it is possible to have a good design without having a design rationale, the design rationale makes the design better, more flexible, and more robust. This applies well to software, where code is the design and comments should provide a rationale: they should not describe what the code is, but rather why it is.
Magnus Lidbom
DNF: I really like to read well thought out books about design. Notes on the Synthesis of Form for instance blew my mind. This one, not so much. I just kept waiting for something interesting, something thought provoking. Nothing. *crickets*. Off to the dnf pile with it.
David Lindelof
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
This book is the culmination of Brooks's reflection on the design process itself, and illustrates its many points through examples in architecture and computer design.

I found this book extremely valuable, if only for the exposition of the fact that great design is almost always the product of a single mind---two at most.

I personally also appreciate Mr Brooks's openness when it comes to informing his reasoning from biblical truths. I find this attitude laudable.
Dale W
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of essays by Brooks focus on the design process and incorporates lessons that can be applied to any number of disciplines (though engineers will likely find many lessons easier to apply). This book generated some interesting discussion among my co-workers. As always, I don't completely agree with everything Brooks asserts but I If you do any design work this should fine this worth reading.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Developers
A good primer on higher level thinking about design. My interest in this was primarily from a computer architecture sense, but also in organizing large teams to tackle big projects. Lots of case studies (I hope you like reading about Brooks' houses) and concerete examples. Nothing groundbreaking, but lots of truth and lessons learned the hard way from people that have designed big things.
Jun 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Needs more hands on experience. You do get more discussion about the people involved in the project and some more information about how CS programs should be more "hands on" and teach people different kinds of designs... but I think that's a lost cause in Academia until you can create a "Software Engineering" program for applied CS.
Peter Poole
Brooks wanders from time to time and repeats some of his examples a bit too often, but what he does go into depth on is often fascinating and eye-opening. Especially in the first few chapters, I've dog-eared a good number of the pages for further reading because the groundwork he lays out about project management in general is spot-on.
Jess Martin
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting ideas on the importance and process of design. Basically, make bold design decisions, spend plenty of time in the design phase. Use some process or method to explore the design space. Single designers (or pairs) trump teams, if you can manage it.
Benjamin O'connor
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Highly recommend. Actually a good companion to Brooks' other (better known) work, The Mythical Man Month. Applications to design and planning well beyond computer science and architecture. This guy knows how the sausage really gets made.
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