Monday, May 28, 2012

If Your Design Depends on Someone Else Doing Something to Make it Work, You Have Already Failed

This is a design principle that I have found to be universal, no matter the size of the project. If you design something that will not work without the efforts of another, then you can guarantee that it will never work. My experience with this design principle occurred as part of a request to solve a design problem inadvertently built into the Northern Renaissance Faire site.

The Main Stage for the Faire site was located in a perfect natural earthen bowl, which made for a wonderful theatrical experience, but the entrance to the area was easy to miss as you walked by. We would periodically hear complaints that guests could not find the stage to see the main Queen’s show, so we knew we needed to build something that would draw attention to the entrance. While at Disney a budget for a project might be 100 million dollars, at the Faire my per-Faire expense account was usually closer to $3000. I was asked to build a barker’s platform, or a small tower that I was promised a paid actor would stand upon all day and call passersby to the stage. This project ate nearly my entire budget and it generated a huge, heavy, but OSA safe platform for an actor to climb and stand upon. The morning of the first day of Faire I wandered past the stage and saw that the tower was completely missing! After hunting around I discovered that the ice delivery truck crew had dragged the tower (no small feat) and tossed it back stage. The tower was in their way, so, they moved it. After much scolding the tower was replaced, and as far as I can remember I never once saw an actor stand upon it and do anything. I did however see that a participant was stationed at the base of it all day to keep drunken guests from climbing it and falling off on their heads. Although built with all the best intentions, the design and purpose failed due to that lack of the actor to make it work as designed.

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