Architects are an unusual breed; we’re not quite engineers and we’re not quite interior designers. It is, therefore, sometimes understandably confusing when those outside the profession try to ask us questions.

Not only is it rarely defined what architects actually focus on professionally, but it is even rarer to know what architects think about when their minds are at rest and left to wander. What kind of things fascinate architects that might be completely overlooked by anyone in any other profession?

Whether you’re drafting plans for a renovation with an architect and trying to put yourself in the right mindset, or you’ve always been a little archi-curious, here are a few insights into the minds of architects.


Architects constantly think about details. When one steps out of the office, the built environment becomes a perpetual source of entertainment. A simple drive to the grocery store might evoke several flash ideas about improving the efficiency of car traffic or alternative materials for dog leashes. Architects are largely known as problem solvers, but sometimes our minds wander to issues that have already long been settled, but could still use a little counterintuitive thinking.


Architects like to think about conventions. Many people accept the standards of the world as givens, yet architects are unceasingly fascinated by the arbitrariness of certain human habits. Why are sidewalks a foot higher than the street? Why did shoelaces become the standard for tightening shoes? When did people in certain parts of America start saying “y’all?” For an architect, every aspect of life can be thought of with a fresh perspective, and it’s a hard thought process to shake off.

Thinking like an artchitect


Architects think about people and how they represent themselves and their businesses. Logos, for example, reveal so much about how a company views itself, bright colors signify a playful demeanor and big letters signify a cry for attention. Because architects largely produce sketches and drawings for a living, we are painfully aware of the ability that things in the built environment have to communicate to everyone else in that same territory. Every choice in a design says something unique about the thing it represents, and this a very important issue that architects apply to elements way beyond their craft.


Architects think about facts.There’s a famous saying, “Engineers know a lot about one thing, architects know a little about everything.” We famously excel at striking up a conversation about food, art, South American birds, colors, bicycle chains – anything! Architects don’t shy away from any topic, even when we know very little about the subject at hand. To an architect, the world is full of unusual and exciting things. Places that others might consider banal contain landmines of cultural information for architects; in fact, these are exactly the kinds of places from which we get our best ideas.

How to Think Like an Architect was last modified: April 21st, 2022 by Shane Reiner-Roth
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