One part mechanics, one part science

One black-and-white perspective on building software is that part of it is about mechanics and part of it is about science. The mechanics part is about wiring things up, composing smaller solutions into bigger ones, and solving any problems that arise in the process. The science part is taking problems that don’t fit well into the existing mechanisms and making a new mechanism that identifies and solves all the right puzzles.

You could look at visual and interaction design in the same way. The mechanical part is about using the available assets and mechanisms to create a visual, interactive experience on screens that humans interact with. The science is about solving a problem using ideas that people already understand or creating an idea that teaches people how to solve a problem.

The mechanical case is about knowing tools, when to use them, and how they interact with each other. The scientific case is about holding lots of state and puzzle in your head and thinking about how computers or people will interact with the system.

I’ve observed that people end up all long the spectrum. Some specialize on mechanics, others on science. The rare case that can work adeptly on both sides, even if they’re not the best at either discipline, is really fun to watch.

Adam Keys @therealadam