Seth Godin recently posted an article titled “Is architect a verb?”:
Design carries a lot of baggage related to aesthetics. We say something is well-designed if it looks good. There are great designs that don’t look good, certainly, but it’s really easy to get caught up in a bauhaus, white space, font-driven, Ideo-envy way of thinking about design.
So I reserve “architect” to describe the intentional arrangement of design elements to get a certain result.
He goes on to talk about businesses that actively architect:
Stew Leonard’s, which used to be my favorite supermarket example, is architected to extract large amounts of money from customers. One example: there’s only one route through the store. You start at the beginning and work your way to the end. No one goes there to buy a half-gallon of milk. And he’s not going to win any design competitions either…
Or consider the architecture of the pricing at 37signals or the architecture of Hotmail’s viral marketing campaign years ago.
Architecture, for me anyway, involves intention, game theory, systems thinking and relentless testing and improvement. Fine with me if you want to call it design, just don’t forget to do it.
I agree with Seth. Architecting your startup requires more than making a few decisions about technology up front. It also requires startups to make decisions early on about their revenue model, marketing, and other aspects of their business.
Over time, these things may change as the startup learns more about what works and what doesn’t. When that change happens, you need to have a startup architect available to listen to where you want to go and help you get everything in place to get you there. They need to understand not only how to make technology decisions, but also to understand what kind of impact those decisions have for your business going forward.
That is what we do.