Media needs its architects

At the Edinburgh International TV Festival last month, Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, told delegates to “ignore Lord Sugar” and bring more engineers, more science, into the TV industry. This was essential, he argued, if they wanted to break the pattern of UK innovating things that would be scaled up into global businesses elsewhere.


Over the past year or so I’ve been working on some ideas with a production company about how to re-design from the ground up what a TV show is. How you design the experience,  the online community and creative processes to take into account the opportunities that the web presents, from inspiration and insight at the outset, to distribution and commercialisation.

It has been fascinating to come from the digital marketing agency world and look at the similarities and differences of the TV industry. The biggest similarity is that businesses in both sectors are labouring with commercial models which constrain them, systems of creation which need to be (and are) being re-thought for the age of the web.

It occurs to me that media and marketing businesses are like the master craftsmen of old. Master masons in the middle ages created cathedrals and castles of staggering scale and beauty.


Image (cc) Wikimedia Commons

When science – and especially mathematics – began to make its influence felt more, though, a whole new world of possibilities opened up – what we think of as the modern discipline of architecture. Projects of scale and ambition were led by architects.

Architects brought together science and the art. That’s not to say that master masons wouldn’t and didn’t have a future – but it was a future within the context of architecture as a discipline, as a world view.

And that’s what’s needed to create the media – and marketing, its all part of the same game – industry for this century. New thinkers who bring the science, the engineering into the equation.

Bringing in the science and engineering doesn’t have to drive out the beauty – it can create new opportunities for it to exist, new spaces for craftspeople and artists – but there can also be a genius and a thrill about looking at the whole.


image credit: (cc) Aurelien Guichard

3 responses to “Media needs its architects”

  1. Media already has its architects – look at how Pixar effortlessly combine software and art. Ed Catmull is the most interesting creative leader around, in my book.

    The roles you’re talking about have different titles in different fields – showrunners, exec producers, etc – but they’re there. What they all share is the ability to create a space where great art can happen, but to understand the constraints of time, materials, and clients needs.

  2. Thanks, Matt. I’ve found some videos of Ed Catmull – look forward to finding out more about him…

  3. The thing is, making media (like building cathedrals) used to be difficult and expensive.  That’s why you needed the specialists.  Now that media is easy and cheap, do you still need the specialists?

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