Tim Brown

October 11, 2022

The Artist, the Architect, and the Advisor ♻️

Today, I want to tell you a very short story about three friends — we’ll call them the Artist, the Architect, and the Advisor.

First, briefly, some context.

Generative machine learning models are a new kind of creative material, part of the next wave, and the force of this material is already starting to reshape the landscape of design workflows. But understanding context – how people move through that landscape – is the key to making this new material usable, and therefore critical to identifying customer value.

To succeed, design intelligence features need a framework of common design workflows that cover the circumstances people are in, the jobs they hire design tools to do, and the destinations they seek to reach through their efforts. I’m trying to construct this framework, for my own understanding and to facilitate clearer project communication.

Here’s that short story:

One day, three friends met in the city. Sometimes they are very busy and cannot all meet, but today they could meet. They were very excited to see each other.

“Where should we go!?” the Artist wondered, smiling enthusiastically. “How about the park?”

“The park is great.” said the Advisor. “It’s on Maple, we could eat at that new place afterward. Or we could go uptown.”

The Architect chimed in, “Have you been to that new place? Is it any good?”

“I heard people like it. Ali went recently.” replied the Advisor, who, seeing that traffic had changed, started to lead the group toward the park.

As they followed, the Artist turned to the Architect and grinned with satisfaction, “I love this city. Thanks for setting this up. We should do it more often.”

“Me too,” smiled the Architect. “We should.”

These friends are a metaphor for general areas of habit in common design workflows, and the way they interact is a metaphor for intelligence opportunities in design tool user experiences.


The Artist is the act of exploration: Trying new things and making decisions based on feeling. The Architect is the act of coordination: Specifying direction and tightening up loose ideas. The Advisor is the act of observation: Referencing schema and balancing unknowns.

Between the Artist and Advisor, there is possibility. Options to try, feelings to discover, but careful not to overwhelm. Between the Architect and Advisor, there is prediction. Patterns to follow, cohorts to consider, efficiencies to unlock. Between the Artist and Architect, there is procedure. Steps to automate, systems to define, new and higher gears to shift.

These are not perfect metaphors, but they are helping me to put context around technological ideas old and new, and helping me to suggest ways forward. They are part of a larger overall framework that is doing the same for me at a higher level, and I hope to share more about that later.

About Tim Brown

Hey there! 👋 Tim Brown here. This newsletter is very occasional and includes a mix of both professional & personal things.

More about me: tbrown.org