Compromise in Design

My friend Andy Rutledge asked yesterday whether there is place for compromise in the design profession. There are probably multiple interpretations of what’s meant by “compromise”, but in terms of design itself, I would argue that no design solution can exist without compromise.

The design process attempts to address objectives, within a multi-dimensional space of constraints. Within the particular dimension of any given constraint, there may exist an optimal solution. But within a multi-dimensional space, the design solution will sit at some (hopefully optimal) intersection.

It’s highly improbable that that intersection will coincide with the optimal solution in every constraint dimension, and so the design solution in the multi-dimensional space implies compromise in each individual constraint dimension.

So in the sense of “trade-offs”, compromise is already inherent in any non-trivial design activity.

To complicate matters, the relative arrangement of these constraint dimensions are not assured to be static, as they can be influenced by priorities, and priorities can shift throughout the lifecycle of a design activity. In response to these shifts, we must be prepared to accept compromise, in the sense of “negotiation and agreement”, as part of the process as well.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?