Musings about iOS development and life

Architecture tidbits

The following is the notes I jotted down while reading a splendid little book called “101 Things I learned in Architecture School” by Matthew Frederick.


For some reason I am fascinated by architecture. It’s the union of hardcore engineering with esthetics probably. If I could do it all over, I would be an architect. But software engineering is the next best thing. Effectively, we deal with the same things. Except it’s a lot less… monumental!


“Architecture is the thoughtful making of space”, Louis Khan.

“A proper building grows naturally, logically, and poetically out of all its conditions”, Louis Sullivan

“The success of the masterpieces seems to lie not so much in their freedom from faults – indeed we tolerate the grossest errors in them all – but in the immense persuasiveness of a mind which has completely mastered its perspective”, Virginia Woolf

Figure Vs Ground

Figure is an element placed on a canvas. Also called object, form, element, positive shape.

Ground is the space around it. Also called space, residual space, white space, field. Space is called negative space if it unshaped after placements of figures, positive space if it has a shape.

Implied elements can be seen even though they are not explicitly outlined (subtractions for example, or inference)

Solid void theory is the 3D counterpart. Positive spaces have a clear distinction between inside and outside.

We move through negative space and we dwell in positive space.

Denial and reward theory

Satisfaction of experience depends on how connections are made with our surroundings. Deliver details sparingly to make the arrival more rewarding (also called Progressive Disclosure).

Hierarchy theory

  • Do not isolate details. Consider “systemic requirements” to achieve consistency throughout.
  • Concept of the parti. It is a vision board, designed to convey the essence of the product.
  • Everything down to the smallest details must not conflict with the parti. This is called parti integrity. Better to create a new parti than to compromise the original parti.
  • Broad strokes for the rough drafts, soft brushes for the finishing touches. Softening of the lines indicates progress.
  • Creative destruction (don’t be afraid to delete things).
  • Beauty is due to harmonious relationships between the composing parts. Dialogue of the pieces.


  • Holistic vs sequential.
  • Being able to switch from macro to micro in a heartbeat.
  • Improved understanding of good process is the reward, not a perfect delivery. “A project doesn’t deserve a good grade if the process that led to it was sloppy, ill-structured, or the result of hit or miss good luck”.
  • Meta-thinking, thinking about the thinking.
  • An appreciation for asymmetrical balance is considered to demonstrate capacity for higher-order thinking.
  • The levels of competence:
    • Simplicity (blissfully unaware of the underlying complexity)
    • Complexity (aware of the complexity, but unable to dominate it)
    • Informed simplicity (able to dominate complexity through pattern recognition).
  • Design with informed simplicity in mind (complexity can be achieved from a position of control).

Design tricks

  • Frame a view (selection, screening, denial…)
  • Design with INTENT.
  • Use a counterpoint
  • Symmetry implies inertia / Asymmetry implies momentum.
  • In a composition, look for:
    • Balance
    • Multiple vectors
    • Direction, and counterpoint
    • Absence of gaps
  • Reflect on “wayfinding” objects.
  • Design in cross-sections.
  • Use a cool outlined font for titles.
  • Strategically position the anchors to optimize traffic (department stores in a mall for example).
  • Object (church or memorial) vs fabric (residences)
  • When in doubt, draw!

The paradox

  • Good designs do not result from end to end control, but from flexibility steered by consistent decisions.
  • The engineer tends to be an expert at inanimate things, whereas the architect is also concerned with the human interaction.
  • Objectivity (scientific) and Subjectivity (artistic).
  • Truth vs narrative
  • “Accepting as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do”.

Categorised in: Books, Recent

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