Joel Spolsky has begun a new series on design. I'm looking forward to it because I find myself having to refocus on the discipline of good design quite often.
The one thing I have begun to understand about design is that in order to do a good job you've got to be absolutely tenacious. If it means *exactly* 172 pixels, you use every means necessary to use 172 pixels. Not 171, nor 175, exactly 172.
His first article, "What is Design?", does a good job of dispelling the myth that design is something mystically done by "artsy" people. It will be interesting to see where he goes from there.
I managed to get the company where I did my last project to use Fogbugz, Joel's bug tracking software. At the time it seemed like simplistic software - I had a hard time believing that this "guru" of software development only had Fogbugz to show for himself. However, I've been able to understand more of the design behind Fogbugz now; we use Serena Teamtrack and although it *seems* like it has more functionality, it's missing a lot of the ease, flexibility, and philosophy of Fogbugz. The best designs are like the best special effects in a film; they are so good you don't realize they are there.