The game of the arbitrary is not satisfying for the user. It plays directly on and against the user's instinctive search for meaning and order in their environment. The arbitrary relies on a generator that is preferably remote from the design concerns, and preferably disordered or ordered only at a very abstract level. What it can do for the user is to create a sense of whimsy and spontaneity, signalling that the environment is not necessarily as important as it seems to be. More commonly, however, the foreign element is believed to be part of an unknown order that the user cannot fathom.

Within the game of designing, the arbitrary can serve to break deadlocks in the designing process, including blank-sheet syndrome. By using the arbitrary element to generate detail, then removing the element once a body of ideas has been developed, the designer can leverage an arbitrary decision to increase production. Similarly, the introduction of arbitrary constraints into the design process will make the development of detail considerably easier (by reducing the possible movements).

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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