Two design approaches: Disney Theme Park and LEGO

Not really a pattern, but I ran across two articles about design process this morning. The first one (found here) is about the design of a new ride (Toy Story Mania) at Disney theme parks:

"BUILDING elaborate models is among the first formal steps in creating a Disney attraction. Engineers, paying attention to scale and sight lines, want to find out how a planned addition would affect the existing park. Models are built on large tables equipped with wheels. The company keeps room-size models of entire parks, and engineers will eventually wheel the new model into that area to see how it looks. (...) To give birth to Toy Story Mania, Mr. Rafferty and Mr. Coltrin went to work turning drawings of the ride into foam models, toiling in the same 1950s-era building in suburban Los Angeles where Walt Disney himself once tinkered. Tweaks started to happen. The team added turrets to the top of the ride for a more dramatic flair. (...) Upstairs, designers entered blueprints for the ride into a computer program. This would allow them to start building and refining the entire project (...) “It is much easier and less expensive to do this before the concrete has been poured,” he added. “As rides become more complicated, your ability to tweak in the field gets harder and much more expensive.”

Across the street, in a cold, unmarked garage, Ms. Allen helped to conduct “play tests” on rudimentary versions of the ride. More than 400 people of all ages — all had signed strict nondisclosure agreements — sat on a plywood vehicle set up in front of a projection screen and played various versions of the games. Disney workers studied their reactions and interviewed them afterward.

And this interview of Bjarne P. Tveskov, the classic LEGO Space Designer addresses interesting topics related to design:

"BBG: Where did the ideas for the models come from? Did someone from LEGO say "Bjarne, we need a big space ship for the Blacktron line" or did you come up with the ship so they decided to produce it?

Bjarne: Well, normally there was a brief to create a new space ship or vehicle or base at a specific price point. Maybe the model were to replace an existing set or maybe there would be some other requirements. But there would always be a fixed "brick-budget" one had to stay within. That was often the hardest part; If the model was over budget, one had to simplify and sometimes strip all the little cool extras of the models. Each brick has an internal price, and there was a whole department that did nothing but calculate the prices of all the prototype models we designed. Often 20-30 different models would be built, and only one would be selected for production. Then the models went through a committee of super-experienced model-designers to make sure stability and buildability was optimal.

I remember that one of the toughest ones to slim down to the right price was the Blacktron Alienator (6876). It had to be rebuilt and re- calculated several times before the brick-count was low enough. But it's still also one my favorite sets out of the 20+ LEGO Space models I designed back in the day from 1986 to 1990."

Why do I blog this? two interesting accounts of design process in less known fields, some curious elements to be thought of. For example, the description of the test approach in the theme park scenario would be a curious topic to discuss with urban planners. Are there some transferable approaches? Would a public transport company benefit from this?