Minding the Details

Back when I worked in a big architectural office, I was generally relied upon to generate details for whatever section of the project was my responsibility. Inevitably, when I would bring some suggested details to the Project Manager's attention for discussion, someone would repeat the old axiom "The Devil is in the Details". In the course of my 20+ years in the architectural field I have heard it quite a few times. Most of my co-workers hated detailing. It's slow work when done right; and if the detail doesn't work, you can guess who gets the blame.

While I've heard "The Devil is in the Details" thousands of times, I've always had a different view of the problem. The prestigious parts of a project's design (exterior and interior appearance) are generally either fought over by the team leadership, or handed to some design guru to give his special 'flourish' to. The rest of the tasks are handed out the team, usually with some grumbling about who ends up with what, and most of them look forward to the day when they can paint with broad strokes and not have to worry about 'the details'. No one wants them, except people like me. Design is design, and the joy of creation is in the details as much as it is in generating a building exterior that has 'street appeal'.

It's a lot like writing, in a way. There is something I need to say, how to say it? There's something this widget needs to do, how do I make it work? Sit there and puzzle over it, lay out designs and discard them one after another. Consult some references, lay out more designs, and sit and puzzle some more. Finally in the end it all comes together in a flash of inspiration, and Viola! The joy of creation, doing work that the average clock-puncher looks down on as beneath them.

The old axiom does carry a grain of truth. If you don't mind the details, if you don't sort them all out for yourself, then you leave that part of creation to chance. Murphy is a hard task master, and gremlins don't have a bad rep because they fix things when you aren't looking. Chances are, if you leave the details to chance, you won't be pleased with the outcome.

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