Every product, in every category, in every era has a certain established architecture that serves as the foundational structure for the product’s design. The origin of this architecture is usually highly evolutionary, building incrementally upon previous successful iterations until an optimized pattern emerges. Modern cars still have four wheels, one on each corner, with people sitting in the center, because the horse-drawn carriages upon which they were based had proven this architecture for hundreds of years. Modern houses still have roofs, walls, floors, doors, and windows, all established well in the past. However, with this natural process of weeding out less successful configurations (like old straight razors) for more favorable ones (like modern safety razors), a good deal of assumptions are built up in the process. These assumptions become mental barriers to new thinking that are increasingly hard to break down. One of the most delightful aspects of being a designer is the chance to take a sledgehammer to these foundational assumptions, and rebuild a product’s core configuration from its most basic elements. This kind of Re-Architecting has taken place in every product category: modern TV and manufacturers are exploring putting bulky internal components in the base, instead of thickening up the back of the display panel; the aviation industry routinely produces designs that completely deviate from our notions of stable aircraft, but fly nonetheless (Burt Rutan is legendary at this); Dyson has made a business out of reconfiguring our household appliances with amazing results. For companies desiring innovative products, starting at the architecture level can yield market-shaking results. For designers using this theme, it will mean a completely different approach from the standard re-skinning of last year’s model. Because the very foundation of the product is being altered, designers must work closely with the technical experts who know the architecture inside and out. At the same time, those technical experts should ideally be open-minded to challenging the assumptions they’ve held for many years. Also, because almost every aspect of the product will be changing, lead times and R&D expenditures are usually greatly increased. However, in product categories that are stagnant with unchallenged assumptions, Re-Architecting can be just the method to create something fresh, innovative, and desirable. An additional benefit: Re-Architected solutions are almost always highly patentable, which provides a firewall against established competitors. Raise your sledgehammers, designers!