A previous entry suggested hiring an architect was a good idea because architects take existing components and assemble them in interesting and important ways. So how should you “think architecturally” in order to create things that are not only interesting but also solve practical, real-world problems? Architectural thinking is about balancing three opposing “forces”: what people want (desirability), what technology can provide (feasibility) and what can actually be built given the constraints of cost, resource and time (viability).
It is basically the role of the architect to help resolve these forces by assembling components “in interesting ways”. There is however a fourth aspect which is often overlooked but which is what separates great architecture from merely good architecture. That is the aesthetics of the architecture.
Aesthetics is what separates a MacBook from a Dell, the Millau Viaduct in France from the Yamba Dam Bridge in Japan and the St Mary Axe from the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea. Aesthetics is about good design which is what you get when you add ‘significance’ (aesthetic appeal) to ‘utility’ (something that does the job). IBM, the company I work for, is 100 years old this year (check out the centennial video here) and Thomas Watson, IBM’s founder, famously said that “good design is good business”. Watson knew what Steve Jobs, Tim Brown and many other creative designers know; aesthetics is not only good for the people that use or acquire these computers/buildings/systems it’s also good for the businesses that create them. In a world of over-abundance good design/architecture both differentiates companies as well as giving them a competitive advantage.