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Growing Your Personal Design Heuristics

YOW! 2019 Brisbane

The ouroboros is a mythical serpent shaped into a circle, clinging to and devouring its tail in an endless cycle of self-destruction, self-creation, and self-renewal. Becoming a good designer of software sometimes feels like that. Cultivating and refining personal design heuristics is one way we become better software designers.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we each use heuristics that we have acquired through reading, practice, and experience. Heuristics aid in design, guide our use of other heuristics, and even determine our attitude and behavior. You can grow as a designer by becoming more conscious of your heuristics. What are your “go to” heuristics? How well have they worked? Do your successes or failures lead you look to discover new heuristics? While you may read others’ design advice—be it patterns, blog posts, books or stack overflow replies, the heuristics you personally discover on your own design journey are likely to be the most important.

Rebecca Wirfs-Brock

Consultant, Inventor of Responsibility-Driven Design & xDD

Wirfs-Brock Associates

United States

Rebecca Wirfs-Brock is an object design pioneer who invented the set of design practices known as responsibility-driven design (RDD) and by accident started the x-driven design meme. Along the way, she authored two popular object-design books that are still in print. She was the design columnist for IEEE Software. You can find her blog at and her design columns, papers, and writing at

In her work, Rebecca’s helps teams hone their design and architecture skills, manage and reduce technical debt, refactor their code, and address architecture risks.

Rebecca is program director of the Agile Alliance’s Experience Report Initiative. Another interest of hers is software patterns and design heuristics. She serves on the board of the Hillside Group and recently has written papers on architecture decision-making, essays about the relationship between patterns and heuristics, patterns on how to create and manage magic backlogs, sustainable architecture, agile QA, and adaptive systems architectures.

If you want to write about and share your agile experiences or wisdom in pattern form, Rebecca can help you turn your itch for writing into the written word.