Jim Yurchenco on Collaboration and Negotation

Source: Interview with Jim Yurchenco, 25 May 2000.

Working Together

Pang: How did the labor on the project break down, and how did the members of the group work together?

Jim Sachs also recalls the division of labor within the group.

Yurchenco: Jim Sachs was doing the electronic design, and I've had my memory jogged, and Douglas was doing the industrial design-- the appearance of the product. So in terms of building the enclosure for the mouse, Douglas had to decide what the shape would look like, and I would work back and forth with him and say, "Okay, well I need a little more room here for this," and he would change his shape slightly, or he would push back and say, "I don't want to change that shape, change your shape." So there's always this tension between the mechanical designer and the industrial designer.

But I would start by giving him a rough envelope of how big the components are, and in his case he would come back to me and say, "I want this thing to be about this big inside the hand." So we would sort of establish a rough boundary about where we're working. That's typical of the process for any product design. You're going to design an object and it'll have an appropriate size. Working with an industrial designer, you'll establish what that size is. That size has to contain all the functional parts. Now if that's too big, it may be an impossible product: if the parts in the mouse were the size of a shoe box, it wouldn't have been a very useful product. So there are limits to how far those boundaries can be pushed; but you work together on those things.

So Douglas had final responsibility for the outer shape, and I had final responsibility for how the parts inside worked, and how the parts were put together: how was the cord put in, what the bottom is, what's the door, and so forth. Jim had to determine what electronic parts had to go in there to enable the mouse to function; he worked out the circuits, and then we worked together to place those parts on the circuit board so his electronics would not be in the way of the parts I needed. So we would agree on a rough circuit board shape, and I would say, "This is my space, and this is your space," and he would see if he could do his layout inside "his" space. And if there were issues, we'd go back and negotiate.

Again, it's a very typical part of the design process. In this case it was a little more closely linked only in that I actually had some electrical components as part of the ribcage assembly-- the phototransistors and the LEDs-- and so we had to decide on those physical components, and I had to know their size and shape in order to fit them inside the plastic, because they were physically contained within the ribcage, and then went down onto the circuit board. Other than that, there was nothing atypical about that process: it gets done all the time.

Ribcage Name

Pang: Do you recall where the name "ribcage" came from?

Yurchenco: It probably came from the fact that we were building a mouse, and we started naming the parts anatomically. At some point the drawings actually had anatomical names for all the parts, but Apple made us take them off. I had at one point the words "Ribcage, Rodent" as the title on the drawing on the ribcage. Apple wasn't amused, which I thought was kind of sad.

Pang: Was that a typical practice, to give nicknames to things you're working on?

Yurchenco: Oh, yeah, we give nicknames to parts or designs or products all the time. It helps you remember them, because you get tired of calling something "Bracket A" or "Bracket B" or "Left Support Block." So it'll resemble some object, and someone will say it, and everyone else will agree, "Oh, yeah, that's what that is!" Sometimes the names get based on how we feel about the client, so they're not always for public consumption. But it's really typical to come up with those names, at least in this office.

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Document created on 28 November 2000;