cs173: Essay 2

The goal of this assignment is to force you to think hard about design, which is a central force in programming language development.

Real Paul Graham's Taste for Makers. Graham lists several critera for good design. (Incidentally, the art school he refers to is RISD.)

Ideally, this assignment would ask you to study a programming language using Graham's criteria. However, this may be unfair to some of you because you may not know any language well enough to judge it, either positively or negatively, on these criteria. You might also jump to faulty conclusions by virtue of not knowing the language (or the area of programming languages) well enough, which makes it harder for us to assign a meaningful grade.

Still, we want you to experience the idea of thinking about design qualitatively, making judgments, and justifying them. To that end, we ask you to pick any well-designed artifact and to justify your choice using Graham's criteria. Whatever you choose, pick something humans can use, not merely experience (such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). You may, obviously, choose a programming language. But you could also eulogise a corporeal object, be it sophisticated (Alessi's kettles by Michael Graves), simple (the Providence railway station) or even commonplace (your grandmother's sewing thimble).

Odds are you can write most passionately about something you have used yourself. Therefore, you might consider sparing us your fantasies, be they about muscle cars, hunting rifles or designer clothes — unless you've actually experienced them directly. In short, try to stick to objects you know rather than dream about.

It's okay to write about the emotional response the object triggers in you: after all, all design intends to attract you emotionally (what distinguishes good design is that it succeeds in doing so). If you doubt that, consider the extent to which car ads on TV are visceral, even as they hawk objects that are profoundly technical.

In four to five pages, please explain your object (briefly) and justify your reasons for choosing it. If you choose something sufficiently obscure, and can provide photographs, links or other reference material, please do so in an appendix. This won't count toward your document's length.