online: 28 july 2005
modified: 31 august, 1 septemeber 2004

28 july 2005 with thanks to Stafford Beer

a letter to Professor Martin C B Smith

dear Martin,

Thank you for informing me of the website about the life and work of Stafford Beer - to which I would like to link the following memory:

My book Design Methods (which has been translated into several languages and has remained in print since 1970) might never have appeared, or acquired its best chapter, but for the presence of Stafford!

This is how it happened:

My proposal (for a book about methods and processes in any and every design profession) was rejected by several publishers in the UK and USA. They sent it for review by various professors of engineering, industrial design and architecture. I gathered that these specialists rejected the proposal because it did not seem to be about design as they knew it.

Eventually a publisher, John Wiley and Sons, accepted the proposal as it stood, subject to review of the completed text by someone else. I suggested that this time they they send it to a generalist, Stafford Beer, whose books they already published. He liked the completed text but said that it lacked an overall view. So I had to rethink... Reluctantly I started to look again (at what I'd already taken several years to write) and I began to make notes for a unifying chapter. It took me some months...

In the end I was glad of this demand - for it led me to represent designing as a unified set of three interacting processes (which I called by names borrowed from mathematics: divergence, transformation and convergence). It seems that other people find this chapter helpful and quite often quote it...

...Yes, the book was much improved by Stafford Beer's criticism - and it might not have appeared at all without his presence!

I am putting this email on my website. The link from the Stafford Beer website should be addressed to:

good wishes

john chris

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