The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left hand side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced. All those on the right hand side would be graded solely on quality. We can learn a lot from what happened next…
The grading system was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in a bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group. 50 pound pots scored an “A”, 40 pound pots scored a “B” and so on. No marks for broken pots. Those graded solely on quality needed to produce only one pot, albeit a perfect one, to get an “A”.
At grading time a curious fact emerged. The works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work —and learning from their mistakes— the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
This story comes from an excellent book called “Sketching User Experiences” by Bill Buxton. Bill refutes the common phrase “build one to throw away” replacing it with “sketch 100 to throw away, then take stock of what you learned”. I find that nothing teaches me more about a design challenge than trying to solve it myself with a pen and paper.
Chasing a skill through theory alone is like studying for a marathon.