As my last post indicated, I am working a new job now an rather than analyzing the software industry, I am now a part of it. I am now a product manager at a small software firm, and I'm heavily involved in designing our brand new next-generation product. The company I work for subscribes heavily to the Agile development methodology, which basically means you estimate and code in smaller iterations, using the best information you have available at the time rather than building an entire requirements document up-front, and then setting the programmers free.
So why am I boring you with this propellerhead detail? I'm wondering if the same principals could or should apply to furniture design and construction. My current project (which I owe you guys quite a bit of video on) has taught me how difficult it can be to anticipate everything you will encounter, especially on a more complicated longer term project. Bad assumptions in planning or design, shortages of lumber, and even actual mistakes in building the piece all lead to in-process changes, requiring creativity and problem solving. For example, I will post a video shortly on one such unexpected problem that led to a fairly significant change to the entire look of the face of my casework, but I made lemonade out of the situation.
y point is, spending weeks in advance fine tuning joinery in Google SketchUp may help visualize the construction, but is the time spent in front of the computer worth the extra time if you have a jig already set up to cut those tenons? Why model what you already know, or more importantly why model what you DON'T already know. For instance, what if the species of wood you chose has really difficult grain making a through tenon almost impossible to chop and you need to switch to blind tenons? All that time modeling those through tenons was wasted. Now I'm not saying you should just grab a stick of figured walnut and start cutting joinery without a plan, I'm just saying that maybe we're better off designing only the key details up-front, and then working out the specifics as we go along. I think there is a happy medium here, and I feel like this last project has pulled me closer to that point. But I'm curious about everyone else's experiences an opinions. Can furniture design go Agile? Or is Agile perhaps what differentiates craft woodworkers from the big production shops? I think it very well could be.