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Design vs. Architecture

18 replies on 2 pages. Most recent reply: Oct 5, 2007 12:19 AM by Sudhanshu Tripathy

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John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Design vs. Architecture (View in Weblogs)
Posted: Dec 10, 2004 5:29 PM
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Summary
Just what is the difference between design and architecture?
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I review a fair number of books every year for various publishers and friends of mine and I'm constantly amazed how often people use the term architecture when, at best, they are just talking about design. Yeah, I understand that there's a whole slew of "grad inflation" taking place in the marketing hype but this is just ridiculous. I read even more software every year and, alas, I must say the problem isn't just with the marketing folks.

Of course, part of the problem seems to be that because software is so soft, it's possible to spend ages arguing about where we draw the line between the two. Personally, the distinction seems very simple and clear but, hey, what do I know? :-)

Here are two exhibits that highlight the difference between "design" and "architecture". Clearview: A New Typeface for US Highways and Roads Gone Wild.


Christopher Diggins

Posts: 1215
Nickname: cdiggins
Registered: Feb, 2004

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Dec 13, 2004 3:10 PM
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I'm sorry I just don't get it, what do road signs have to do with design and architecture of software? What is in your opinion the difference between design and architecture?

John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Hint Posted: Dec 13, 2004 3:26 PM
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> I'm sorry I just don't get it, what do road signs have to
> do with design and architecture of software? What is in
> your opinion the difference between design and
> architecture?

Read both of those articles.

Hint: In the first, notice how most of the discussion has nothing to do with the purpose of signs let alone the purpose of transportation.

Terje Slettebø

Posts: 205
Nickname: tslettebo
Registered: Jun, 2004

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 3, 2005 7:18 AM
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> > I'm sorry I just don't get it, what do road signs have
> to
> > do with design and architecture of software? What is in
> > your opinion the difference between design and
> > architecture?
>
> Read both of those articles.
>
> Hint: In the first, notice how most of the discussion has
> nothing to do with the purpose of signs let alone the
> purpose of transportation.

So, how would you translate this to software?

Regards,

Terje

John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 3, 2005 2:13 PM
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>> Hint: In the first, notice how most of the discussion
>> has nothing to do with the purpose of signs let alone the
>> purpose of transportation.
>
> So, how would you translate this to software?

Well, given that you just read those two articles, it would be more interesting to hear your answer to that question first. How would you "translate" this to software?

Terje Slettebø

Posts: 205
Nickname: tslettebo
Registered: Jun, 2004

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 4, 2005 4:40 AM
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> >> Hint: In the first, notice how most of the discussion
> >> has nothing to do with the purpose of signs let alone
> the
> >> purpose of transportation.
> >
> > So, how would you translate this to software?
>
> Well, given that you just read those two articles, it
> would be more interesting to hear your answer to that
> question first. How would you "translate" this to
> software?

Well, that's the tricky part. In your blog, you write:

"Personally, the distinction seems very simple and clear"

For me, it seems that the two terms are used pretty interchangably, in the field of software.

I don't know how I would define them for software (and indeed, there doesn't seem to be much of agreed on definitions of them), which is why I'm interested in _your_ definition (preferably with some kind of concrete example).

Regards,

Terje

John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 4, 2005 12:18 PM
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> > Well, given that you just read those two articles, it
> > would be more interesting to hear your answer to that
> > question first. How would you "translate" this
> > to software?
>
> Well, that's the tricky part. In your blog, you write:
>
> "Personally, the distinction seems very simple and clear"
>
> For me, it seems that the two terms are used pretty
> interchangably, in the field of software.

Just because people confuse and conflate them doesn't mean that they aren't actually distinct. In a simple and clear way. :-)

> I don't know how I would define them for software (and
> indeed, there doesn't seem to be much of agreed on
> definitions of them), which is why I'm interested in
> _your_ definition (preferably with some kind of concrete
> example).

That is my concrete example. The analogy with software is exact.

Part of the confusion that you've perceived in the discussions of the distinction between architecture and design in the software world is exactly the same discussion that took place in that "design" discussion piece. I.e., it's arguable that they are discussing "design" but they are completely missing talking about the fundamental purpose of the system in which the design is/might-be used.

Terje Slettebø

Posts: 205
Nickname: tslettebo
Registered: Jun, 2004

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 7, 2005 5:52 AM
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> > > Well, given that you just read those two articles, it
> > > would be more interesting to hear your answer to that
> > > question first. How would you "translate"
> this
> > > to software?
> >
> > Well, that's the tricky part. In your blog, you write:
> >
> > "Personally, the distinction seems very simple and
> clear"
> >
> > For me, it seems that the two terms are used pretty
> > interchangably, in the field of software.
>
> Just because people confuse and conflate them doesn't mean
> that they aren't actually distinct. In a simple and clear
> way. :-)

Of course they can be that.

> > I don't know how I would define them for software (and
> > indeed, there doesn't seem to be much of agreed on
> > definitions of them), which is why I'm interested in
> > _your_ definition (preferably with some kind of
> concrete
> > example).
>
> That is my concrete example.

What is your concrete example? I haven't seen any.

>The analogy with software is exact.

The road- and sign-example?

> Part of the confusion that you've perceived in the
> discussions of the distinction between architecture and
> design in the software world is exactly the same
> discussion that took place in that "design" discussion
> piece. I.e., it's arguable that they are discussing
> "design" but they are completely missing talking about the
> fundamental purpose of the system in which the design
> is/might-be used.

So... Are you saying something like that architecture defines how a system is to work, and be used, and the design is the implementation of that architecture, or some such?

This still seems pretty nebulous to me, and in such cases, concrete examples may give us something, well, concrete, to discuss.

Regards,

Terje

Anna Ravenscroft

Posts: 1
Nickname: revanna
Registered: Jul, 2003

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Jan 7, 2005 2:04 PM
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Interesting articles.

Nice examples of the difference.

John D. Mitchell

Posts: 244
Nickname: johnm
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: Hint Posted: Jan 7, 2005 5:02 PM
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>> That is my concrete example.
>
> What is your concrete example? I haven't seen any.
>
>>The analogy with software is exact.
>
> The road- and sign-example?

Indeed. Those examples are literally concrete.

> > Part of the confusion that you've perceived in the
> > discussions of the distinction between architecture and
> > design in the software world is exactly the same
> > discussion that took place in that "design" discussion
> > piece. I.e., it's arguable that they are discussing
> > "design" but they are completely missing talking about the
> > fundamental purpose of the system in which the design
> > is/might-be used.
>
> So... Are you saying something like that architecture
> defines how a system is to work, and be used, and the
> design is the implementation of that architecture, or some
> such?
>
> This still seems pretty nebulous to me, and in such cases,
> concrete examples may give us something, well, concrete,
> to discuss.

So, let's stick with the roads and signs for a wee bit longer... Tell me if your attempted distinction above works for the roads and signs example. If your definition of those two words doesn't work in that example, it can't possibly work for software.

I've already given the hint about the importance of purpose. Another hint is to re-read the road article and think about what the architect did fundamentally differently as compared to other roads.

Erick Reid

Posts: 7
Nickname: erickreid
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Apr 14, 2005 4:20 PM
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The distinction is not as clear for me as John would like, so here's a stab...

The road sign font effort is a matter of design, where as the Monderman efforts are a matter of architecture. Design is more abstract, and unless care is taken, runs the risk of becoming mismatched from its purpose.

A lot of insightful research was invested in the design of the road sign font, but the impact that redesigned font will have on how the roads themselves will operate is unclear.

The Monderman constructs went through a design phase, but the focus was on how the road environment operated: what were the variables and how did they interact to create un/desirable changes. The goal of the roadside sign effort was a more readable sign. Monderman's goal was a more usable road, and, interestingly, less need for signs of any kind.

I've participated in design sessions wherein a lot of cool and possibly useful ideas were mentioned, but so long as the participants reminded one another that the purpose of the system was to do X, then the conversation kept on track and revealed some amazingly simple/eloquent (and easier to accomplish, and less risky) ways to get X done.

Monderman's application of Occam's Razor is a fascinating read: a fundamental revision of road layout instead of introducing more signs, stripes, lanes and lights. In software, the need to introduce lots of extras to shore up some functionality that is resisting revision could be a smell.

Annon Hong

Posts: 1
Nickname: annon
Registered: May, 2005

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: May 10, 2005 2:37 PM
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I really love the Roads and Signs example. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Architecture: Designs the framework for how communications/interaction is done.

Design: Use the template based on the architecture, and design your application utlizing facilities given by the architecture/framework.

So different softwares designs can actually use the same architecture. How things transport? Roads to allow things to travel. What travels and how they travel on such roads can be designed.

As you can see, I am not very good with writing coherent paragraph. This is just my 2 cents.

Amnon Eden

Posts: 2
Nickname: eden
Registered: Nov, 2005

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Nov 8, 2005 6:07 AM
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Dear John,


I was busy with this question myself. The conclusions I've reached can be found in either one of the papers:

“Strategic Versus Tactical Design”
http://www.eden-study.org/articles/2005/strategic-vs-tactical-design_hicss38_.pdf

and
“Architecture, Design, Implementation”
http://www.eden-study.org/articles/2003/icse03.pdf

You're invited to let me know if this helps.


Amnon

Amnon Eden

Posts: 2
Nickname: eden
Registered: Nov, 2005

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Nov 8, 2005 7:16 AM
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The distinction criterion is the Locality criterion: Archietctural specifications are NON-LOCAL whereas detailed design specification are LOCAL. Amnon

Kondwani Mkandawire

Posts: 530
Nickname: spike
Registered: Aug, 2004

Re: Design vs. Architecture Posted: Nov 8, 2005 8:17 AM
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I'm totally lost here so say you're working for Company X. Employing
an Architect, a B.A. and a developer

The B.A. draws the Spec. I assume that will contain some architectural
elements (In the form of English or what ever natural language),
run it by the architect who will enforce the laws by which the
Developer must abide by (from a technical aspect let say, he
points out that all Databases use a Singleton pattern to enable
connection Pooling and the overall Design Pattern abide by the
MVC model (now is this part the software design or the architecture?),
most of the implications in the article seem to state that the design
will pretty much be the same thing as the implementation stage.
So is this implying that Implementation and design are the same thing? i.e a Developer is a Designer? I though that the term "designer" would be more suited for the Architect.

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