Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs to define elegance in system architecture

Alejandro Salado, Roshanak Nilchiani

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Despite the rising interest in developing elegant systems an integral definition of elegance in system architecture and design is lacking. Current attempts have only been able to describe emergent properties of an elegant design or system. This descriptive approach has resulted in evolving definitions and in an inability to use elegance as criteria to evaluate various design candidates. The present research proposes a need-based definition of elegance that aims at being complete yet adaptable, quantifiable, and that allows comparison between different designs or systems. Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a paradigm the present research proposes a structural definition that is grounded on the known and unknown needs an elegant system satisfies, rather than on its emergent properties. Specific emergent properties can then be categorized within the structural definition. The benefits of using such type of definition for elegance in system design are two-fold: it ensures completeness because the specific attributes can always be expanded without actually affecting the definition; and it is integral because it provides the necessary flexibility so that designers can tailor the attributes according to their specific environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)927-936
Number of pages10
JournalProcedia Computer Science
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event11th Annual Conference on Systems Engineering Research, CSER 2013 - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Mar 19 2013Mar 22 2013


  • Elegance
  • Stakeholder needs
  • System architecture
  • System design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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