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Chapter 1987 The Meaning of Design

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1987 The Meaning of Design

    Ves always found something joyful in teaching.

    He knew he was good in mech design. That did not automatically mean he was good at teaching.

    In fact, from an objective standpoint, Ves was even sure whether he would be able to qualify as an able teacher at all. Yet the pleasure he derived from guiding others to become better mech designers was genuine enough to make him believe that he possessed an aptitude in this aspect.

    Regardless of how schools would evaluate his teaching ability, Ves earnestly wanted to prep Maikel and Zanthar for the many challenges that awaited them once they began their true studies.

    Right now, the two of you haven't graduated from high school yet, so I won't hand too much coursework to you. He announced to the young men. Even so, it is never too early to begin shaping your mentality towards mech design. The right mentality not only ensures you'll be on the right track when you graduate from my tutelage, but also ensures you are sufficiently motivated in your studies. The two of you have recently received some lessons from Mayer Torto, right?

    Maikel nodded. Maisie and Rennie attended Mr. Torto's lessons as well. He's very smart.

    As he should, or else I wouldn't have hired him to begin with. What did he teach you two, exactly?

    We learned about the role of mechs in human society in the Age of Mechs.

    Ah, that's a good lesson that every mech design should know by heart. Ves smiled. Tell me in your own words what purpose they serve in today's society. You first, Maikel.

    The young man hesitated after being put on the spot so suddenly. Uhm, mechs are war machines. They are tools used to fight and win battles. They're similar to swords, tanks and warships in that they give humans a much greater capacity for violence.

    That's.. correct, but not the answer I'm looking for. Ves leaned back on his chair and crossed his arms. If you want to become an average mech designer, then this basic definition is sufficient to guide your approach towards your work. If you want to move beyond that and become a creator on the level of a Journeyman or above, then you will have to develop a deeper perspective of mechs. This is in essence the first step towards developing your own design philosophy!

    Both Maikel and Zanthar looked incredibly interested at that! Ves inwardly shook his head at their enthusiasm. While he liked their eagerness, it was way too soon for them to form their own design philosophies.

    That said, it wasn't too early to teach them some of the precursors in order to ensure they wouldn't be going askew when they were ready to explore their own way.

    Zanthar. Ves directed his attention towards the other young clansman. Tell me, what is the definition of a designer? What do they do, and why do they exist?

    A designer is someone who makes.. designs?

    Ves did not look amused. Is that the extent of your definition?

    Uhm, no! A designer combines art and science to produce a plan or drawing that outlines the construction of a certain object or process! They are creators who use their skills and talents to provide tangible solutions to their customers or clients!

    That sounds a bit better. I think you are still too hung up on the textbook definition of design, though. You're kind of mixing them up. Anyway, let me tell you a bit how I look at design.

    He leaned forward and lowered his tone. Design is a process of creation. The common definition of mech design or any sort of design includes both art and science for a very good reason. This is because they are both the core prerequisites to making it all possible.

    First, the science aspect. Anything more complicated than a handheld slingshot requires at least some knowledge of the sciences to design and construct. You need to know how metals work, how energy works, how processors work, how actuators work, how gravity works and etc. All of that requires a solid grasp of the natural sciences. However, it is a mistake for mech designers to think that science is all you need to become a good mech designer. What is a mech designer who is only good in the sciences?

    A pregnant silence ensued.

    I call that an engineer. Ves answered on their behalf. Is that bad? Not necessarily. There are many positions in the galactic job market that ask for someone who is good with numbers or good in the sciences to solve all sorts of complex problems. Now, what do you call a mech designer who doesn't know any science but is very proficient in art?

    Uhm, an artist? Zanthar guessed.

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner! An artist is exactly the sort of person who is capable of creating beautiful designs that are completely unable to function in reality. There are many people like this as well. In fact, a lot of large mech companies run by mech designers who aren't necessarily good in this department employ swathes of artists to come up with mech concepts or are tasked with refining the final exterior appearances of their new products. Now, let me ask you something important. Why do mech designers exist? Why must they be proficient in both art and science when you can just gather a bunch of engineers and artists and lock them up in the same room to pump out designs?

    Has that been done?

    Certainly! Many times in fact! However, this practice fell out of fashion once mech design universities started flooding the job markets with mech designers. What distinguishes a mech designer from a team of engineers and artists?

    They can do the job of both. Isn't that more efficient?

    Ves shook his head. I wouldn't necessarily say so. In an age where there is far too much knowledge that we can ever learn in our lifetimes, specialization is the name of the game in personal development. On the surface, it is much more efficient to teach one person to become a good engineer and another person to become a good artist and divide the task of designing a mech between them. The artist is responsible for creating a concept and vision while the engineer digs into the nuts and bolts and tries to turn the idea into reality. This model is still commonplace in every other industry aside from mech design. Why the exception?

    Neither of the two students could come up with an answer. They were completely stumped!

    Fortunately for them, Ves expected this kind of response.

    Think of the great works of Master Mech Designers and Star Designers. Think of the brilliant, superhuman feats of god pilots. Do you think they can accomplish all of their reality-defying work by abiding by any kind of normal process?

    The expert pilots in our family are different! Zanthar piped up! All of the older folk always told me that expert pilots are more than human, more than mech pilots!

    Exactly. What they are hinting towards is that expert pilots aren't completely constrained by the conventional laws of reality. Let me tell you what a mech designer is and what makes people like me different. Both expert pilots and Journeyman like me are able to go beyond what regular engineers are able to accomplish.


    We learn the sciences because we need to be as capable as any engineer in coming up with a viable technical plan of a complex, multi-part machine. We learn art in order to expand our creativity and learn how to go beyond problem solving. The critical reason to learn both is to combine them together! A mech designer cannot be one without the other!

    The young Larkinsons looked pensive. They didn't entirely understand his point.

    Ves sighed. Look, the meaning of design is creation. We create actual working machines for a living. Creation is the keyword here. I cannot emphasize this enough. Science enables us to create a working machine, but that alone is not enough to justify the existence of my possession. It is only when it combines with art that will result in true creation! While every engineer has learnt how to 'design' something, a mech designer is expected to do more. They are expected to design a practical mech concept, build a compelling vision around it and transform it into an actual design!

    I don't get it, sir. Isn't that something that can still be done with multiple engineers and other people?

    Ah, that should have been the case if not for the existence of high-ranking mech designers. You see, in the early days of the Age of Mechs, the most successful mech designers back then tended to be the most enthusiastic and obsessed of this newfangled weapon platform. In later years, the MTA honored these admittedly radical visionaries as the first Journeymen and Seniors of our profession! Their early success have contributed enormously to the rise of mechs in human society and legitimizing the special status of mech designers compared to other design and engineering professions.

    That must be because their design philosophies are able to accomplish something that automation can never equal, right?

    Good answer, Zanthar! Ves clapped his hand. This is a critical point to make. The discovery of design philosophies and how they enhanced the capabilities of mechs was an essential step in the popularization of mechs as the premier war machine in this day and age! I don't think I need to tell you how many benefits they can provide.

    So.. mech designers exist because they can combine their art and science into a powerful design philosophy?

    That.. is one of the worst definitions that I have ever heard, Maikel. Ves shook his head in exasperation. It's a gross oversimplification, but the idea is close enough. In a nutshell, mech designers can become so good in creating inspiring and innovative mech designs that they essentially bend reality! It is not wrong to consider Gloriana and I the mech designer equivalent of an expert pilot! Just like how an expert pilot is able to crush regular mechs by leveraging resonance, mech designers are able to create machines that possess powerful advantages by levering the effects of their design philosophies! No regular engineer or artist can achieve this! Only one who masters both are able to foster a powerful design philosophy!

    Both his students looked enthralled by his description! Ves had unconsciously employed the same tricks he used to manipulate his Larkinson clansmen during his previous address!

    In essence, holding a speech and lecturing a bunch of studies was not that different from each other. In both cases, the speaker sought to indoctrinate his audience!

    Perhaps that was why he possessed a talent for teaching.

    Now let us get back to the meaning of design. Ves tried to center his lesson back to the main point. What exactly is a design philosophy and what exactly makes it so special? Don't answer that. You won't be able to at this stage. In fact, you'll have to reach Journeyman if you want to provide a somewhat complete answer. For now, all you need to know is that the development of your design philosophies is critical to your future success. While it is too soon to figure out what you want to specialize in, I want you to prepare the first building blocks by thinking about the meaning of design and how it will shape your future work. If you can't figure this out, you'll never become a good mech designer!

    One of the greatest shortcomings Ves had noticed in many Novices and Masters was that the schools they attended didn't emphasize the artistic and creation side of mech design enough!

    Privileged mech designers such as Gloriana were able to attend excellent universities where actual Masters set the curriculum and knew first-hand the importance of creativity!

    Dare to design. Ves told his two students. These words encapsulate my heart of mech design, and the hearts of any competent mech designer! Never constrain yourself too much by practicalities. Let loose a bit! Go a little wild! Anything is possible in mech design as long as you dedicate your entire being towards your goals! It is all up to your vision and how much you are willing to devote to realize your ambitions. When it comes to your design philosophy, as long as you commit to something, don't ever let anyone else convince you that you are wrong! Even if I tell you that you are wrong, as long as you work hard enough, you can always make it right!

    His words succeeded in inspiring Maikel and Zanthar Larkinson!

    While many interpretions existed on the meaning of design, to Ves it centered around creation! He wanted to push this view on his two students in order to ensure they wouold adopt a similar approach towards mech design as him! He did not wish for them to end up as mediocre, uninspired mech designers.

    If Ves had his way, he wanted to make them just as brilliant as himself!