Does excellence in design have measurable characteristics?

Excellence of design can be roughly quantified in terms of goodness of fit. The more factors that correlate, and the more closely that those factors correlate, the better the design. This can serve as a kind of working definition.

Even more interesting is when clusters of interrelated factors are found to correlate. The more intricately articulated the correlations, the more interesting the design.

The simple fact of overall correlation is sufficient for good design, by this definition, but we have to consider the entire ensemble of correlated factors.

A design with exceptional correlation in a few outstanding factors, but with poor correlation overall, does not constitute a better design than one with merely sufficient correlation overall.

Complexity is easily mistaken for quality. The design is shaped by the complexity of the environment into which it fits.

Biology is full of examples of relatively rudimentary species that are highly successful, in the sense that they have flourished for eons, because their characteristics correlate well with the properties of their habitat taken in series.

Subsystems tend to emerge and persist only if the correlations produced by those subsystems contribute to a larger total correlation.

Michael Webb, 2001

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