Comparing CAD designers to professional musicians may seem odd at first, but it works because of the huge variety of products and projects that use CAD, as well as individual designers’ different working styles. Companies that use a production line to produce large equipment are more likely to function like an orchestra, whereas those making consumer products or custom, one-off builds may be more like rock bands. Rock band or orchestra – which musical type are you?

Rock band type CAD designers may work more intuitively, in smaller teams, and aspire to be maverick rather than ‘big label’. They can produce unique pieces using unorthodox methods. Hard-working, lucky rock band types might land themselves the equivalent of a multi-album deal with a global record label, but are likely to continue branching out with side projects and experimental collaborations. There’s no requirement for a rock musician to be able to read music from the stave, whereas orchestral music relies upon all participants being fully versed in advanced music theory.

Orchestral musicians are highly trained and practiced in a single instrument, and they work by adhering to scores (protocols), playing the same pieces again and again to a high standard. Virtuosos may be able to find room for creative flair in the interpretation and execution of the piece, but by and large they will have got to that stage after years of hard work, honing their art by towing the line as part of an ensemble. The end product will be polished, high quality and easily repeatable by following the same process. Correspondingly, orchestra type CAD designers generally have higher degrees and post-graduate training in their discipline.

There are group-based differences here too. In many orchestral pieces, the majority of the instruments play in unison as sub-groups (violins, wind etc.), whereas playing in unison is rare in the four-piece rock band. It’s far more usual in rock for each musician to make distinct, unique contribution.

“What about pop, country, folk, blues, jazz, hip hop and electronica?” the musically educated reader might ask. Well, any analogy can only stretch so far, and really this post is addressing working styles and preferences rather than claiming that there’s an equivalent type of CAD designer or company for every musical genre. Some readers may have discovered they are working with a unique talent who cannot be pigeon-holed; the CAD equivalent of Aphex Twin or Nigel Kennedy, whose compositions and performances raise the bar and inspire others around them. Others might reflect that CAD already has traditional rhythms and instruments that make some designers more like folkies, playing fiddle or bhoran in a real ale pub.

Fortunately, the CAD world, just like the musical world, is extremely diverse and has room for rock band types, orchestra types and more. Each type has their relative strengths and weaknesses, depending upon the project and situation concerned. There are bound to be individuals and corporations who will only use (listen to) one type of CAD designer (musician), but there is always room for individuality, personal style and excellent, original performance. Designers who fall into the rock band category may perform better when they are allowed to innovate, whereas the orchestral types may be better suited to devising and following standard operating procedures for projects that need to be replicated accurately.

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