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Deliverables are simply information that teams need to write
down and communicate to others, sometimes inside the team,
sometimes outside the team. They reflect decisions about aspects of
the project (such as design review minutes); plans for work that
needs to take place (such as test plans or manufacturing plans);
and guiding specifications (such as a software requirements
document). To be effective, these documents need to communicate the
right information to the right people on the team at the right
ProjectConnections, a project management website)
I don't remember when I first heard someone demand to know the
“deliverables.” It was at a meeting, and while I didn't understand
exactly what that meant, I knew it wasn't pizza that you didn't
have to go out for. He seemed to be saying that a proposal must
contain some indication of tangible results, which I had assumed
was self-evident. At a time when we are increasingly challenged to
specify deliverables, whatever they are, it is useful to remind
ourselves of the designer's initial concern with
desirables—those aspects of an object that makes us want it.
Although “value added” is a concept as commonly and recklessly used
as innovation, do we really know how value is added to
artifacts? Aesthetic enhancement and increased functionality are
where designers will look first. But there may also be a clue in
the passion with which people want certain things not for either
their form or their function, but for their association.
That seems at best to be an irrational criterion.
Well, design practice has never excluded the irrational. But
today, in the light of such urgent concerns as Universal Design and
sustainability, is it possible to be irrational without being
Have you heard, for example, that the Tiger Woods Foundation got
$7,600 at auction for the #3 iron used by his wife to smash his car
window on the night of his famous accident? If you haven't, no
matter. It isn't true. But you probably didn't find it impossible
to believe, because it's the kind of thing that does happen all the
time; and the made-up price was right, or at least close to the
going rate. Christies really has just auctioned off novelist
McCarthy's Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter for $254,500! The
author says he bought it from a pawnshop for $50 in 1958 and has
since written all his work—All The Pretty Horses, No Country for
Old Men—on it as well as all his correspondence. The date is
suspect. As far as I know the 32 was not introduced until the
1960s, so it may be
a Lettera 22 he bought. But I doubt that bidders cared
which model it was, or that both were designed by Marcello Nizzoli.
A Google visit to a website called mytypewriter.com tends to
confirm this. The portable typewriters for sale are organized by
brand, period and author, rather than designer, recognizing
that the primary interest for customers seeking an old typewriter
is whether Ayn Rand, Hemingway, Kerouac or Updike used one like
Exactly what value is added to a product by its previous
ownership? Everyone knows that a typewriter used by Cormac
McCarthy, an iron that belonged to Tiger Woods, a glove worn by
Michael Jackson, or a pair of slippers clicked together by Judy
Garland won't win you a Pulitzer, get you out of a sand trap, warm
your hand, or take you from Oz to Kansas any more efficiently than
their quotidian counterparts. Yet such objects are highly prized
and priced accordingly.
At the Museum
of Modern Art's current Bauhaus exhibition one of the most
intriguing effects was the viewer's realization that the artifacts
displayed were made and used by young men and women who would later
become some of the world's most celebrated designers. On the day I
saw the show a number of German design students were there. Even
with eavesdropping impeded by my ignorance of the German language,
I could sense their elation and awe: This was the very chair Breuer
had not only designed but sat in; this typeface by the young
Herbert Bayer, although never produced, had by eliminating capital
letters and lopping off serifs, become a precursor of modern
typography. Well, I marveled, too, while wondering why the students
and I were so impressed by such considerations, when the exhibition
was remarkable in so many more important ways.
Holsten's in New Jersey, now known for the final scene of HBO's
The Sopranos. (Creative
Commons photo by Flickr user craigcb)
A similar phenomenon was the basis of George Washington Slept
Here, the Kauffman-Hart comedy about a couple who buy an old
country house in which the first president was reputed to have once
spent a night.
Not long ago, while visiting suburban New Jersey, I saw a tour
bus pull up in front of a restaurant with a local reputation for
hamburgers, milk shakes, ice cream and homemade candy. At least
that was its reputation. It is still an excellent source of
those comestibles, but its fame, no longer local but international,
rests on other attractions. The restaurant, called Holsten's, is
redolent of Coke dates from another era. It's wholesome Disneyish
ambience makes it the perfect setting for an Andy Hardy movie. Only
the most wildly imaginative location scout could envision this as a
place where Tony Soprano and his Mafiosi chums would hang out.
Nevertheless Holsten's was where the final episode of The
Sopranos was shot.
That explained the tour bus, which disgorged a load of tourists
armed with cameras, cell phones and cash. The money was for
souvenir boxes of Holsten's chocolates to take back to England
where, if the Cadbury takeover is consummated, chocolate may never
be the same again. The cellphones and cameras were to let friends
and relatives know that they were actually sitting in the booth
where Tony and Carmela sat while waiting for their daughter,
Meadow, or a murderer—whichever came first. As it turned out,
neither came at all. The TV screen went dark, leaving both cast and
viewers deprived of the coveted “closure” we hear so much about
Whether it's where George Washington once slept or Tony Soprano
once ate, what value accrues to objects from their previous
possession or occupation by famous people? And can we consciously
invest designed objects with comparable perceived value? (And if we
can, should we?)
During my more than three years in the Marine Corps during World
War II my room at home went unused. It could have been used for
visiting relatives or guests, but unnecessary travel was
discouraged in those years (the entire nation considered itself at
war), and no one came. Upon being discharged I found that, although
I had changed, my room had not; it was still the lair of the
teen-aged boy who had left it. I explored the books, catalogues and
posters, unearthing treasures not seen for years. Digging deeply
into a chest full of relics my hand curled around some fabric that
didn't feel good and whose identity I could not guess. When I
pulled it from the pile I was even more puzzled. It looked and felt
like a small mass of dirty rags. Although my mother was sentimental
enough to keep my room intact while I was gone, she would never
have neglected this! I turned it over in my hand, pondering; and
When my high school friend Irv Leiner got his driver's license,
we drove to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to see Fritzi Zivic fight
Sammy Angott for the welterweight championship of the world.
Afterwards we somehow managed to get into Angott's dressing room,
which was empty and unguarded. On the floor were the bandages that
had been taped around his hands. We each took one. I don't know
what happened to Irv's. (Or to Irv). Mine was what I came home to
from the war.
I wish I had it still.
Ralph Caplan is the author of Cracking the Whip: Essays on Design
and Its Side Effects and By Design. Caplan is the former editor of
I.D. magazine, and has been a columnist for both I.D. and Print. He lectures widely, teaches in the graduate Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts, was awarded the 2010 “Design Mind” National Design Award by the Cooper-Hewitt
and is the recipient of the
2011 AIGA Medal.
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