The Waterfall meets the Jagged.

This is one of the other design notions I presented at JUICE.

I have always had a resistance to straight lines in life. In high school I did more artwork outside of the curriculum than in it. In retrospect, my desire to learn exceeded my peers desire for homework. In addition to my drawing and painting, I had a design company of a sort in grade 12. We were hired to design posters for the clubs and dances at our school and neighbouring schools. I can’t say the business was very developed but the ideas were pretty good and the three of us always had a couple of dollars in our pockets.

In university I studied a variety of things and acquired a BSc. while I continued to pursue my art. Aside from my art shows off campus, I entered the 4th year Faculty of Art juried show and I won. A good thing too, I needed the $50 desperately. Afterward I navigated my way into the design world with a combination of luck and persistence. Of course the line never appears straight at the time. The following chart is an example of a strategic ‘straight line’.


Jeff Conklin, Ph.D. presents many interesting thoughts and observations in his article, “Wicked Problems and Social Complexity”, 2001-2005. I chose to isolate one small piece of this article for the purposes of JUICE. The first diagram illustrates the standard approach to a strategic problem. This is something that we all do because it is simplifying, clarifying and effective. He refers to it as the WATERFALL.


He then decided to investigate how a designer thinks and plotted his findings on the same axes, problem/solution vs. time. He generated the JAGGED (represented by the green line). He observed the simple fact that a designer’s quest repeatedly tests a solution to the problem at various points in time throughout the process.

This feels very familiar and I must admit the feeling was accompanied by an explanation for my pacing, (I constantly walk to and away from a challenge). Of course there are questions that arise as to what is being compared here and whether or not these depictions are accurate representations and so on. Nonetheless, I think this is a compelling observation and deserves noticing by any student of design. Both the waterfall and the jagged are things to be cognizant of as you approach a design project or a decision in life – one yields method, discipline and strategy and the other unleashes awareness, creative thinking and fresh possiblities.



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