Quadracci Pavilion, Milwaukee Art Museum



… is okay!

By, Frank Danzo – Senior Partner

How does tension create emotion, leading to success for your business? Does it keep you sharp…on your toes…?  Is it creative tension, a situation where disagreement or discord ultimately gives rise to better ideas or outcomes?  Creative tension can be healthy and productive in a setting that fosters a constructive atmosphere for reaching decisions and resolving tension.

Quadracci Pavilion, Milwaukee Art Museum by Santiago Calatrava   palsson/Flickr

Tension in design creates an emotional reaction, it’s hard to stop looking at it because your mind tries to justify the elements that are at odds with each other.

“The pushes and pulls of not only physical structure and forms can reveal quite beautiful elegance, but also the dynamics of special alignments and axis can bring metaphorical meanings to life. This building by Calatrava appears to be ready to take flight as it uses “tension” within its structure with alignment of axis to compose a motion which seems deliberate and ready to happen.”
Maria Lorena Lehman, Sensing Architecture

See where sharp angles and flowing lines create tension in design. Like it or not, it surely captures your eye and probably your mind.


Let’s use the ABC Restaurant. A is for Alan, B is for Brianna (these two are a couple), and C is for Charles, a partner and a friend. They’ve been in the casual dining industry for many years, in fact they all three worked together in a large national chain of casual restaurants.

Alan is all about the financial success. He is a careful buyer and really isn’t that interested in the dining experience but he understands that his partners excel at that.

Brianna is very creative. She wants the restaurant to reflect the creativeness that will keep people talking. She wants unique. She wants an easy and comfortable look and will spare no expense, often using very expensive furniture and fixtures. The restaurant lighting alone cost $80,000.

Charles believes the restaurant is all about the food. He likes sourcing local ingredients and wants a changing menu that reflects his creative nature when it comes to the food. He starts by creating the ultimate food presentation… then he looks at costs.

These three people like each other and trust each other but are often at odds over their diverse interests. They did end up with a profitable restaurant known for distinctive dining and a constantly changing array of food. Everybody loves this place


If the three of them thought the same, it is doubtful that the restaurant would succeed because their diverse passions, often working through the business tension, is what has made ABC Restaurant such a success. Tension, moderate tension, creates the best businesses in the world. Autocratic decision-making leads to staleness, low innovation, and boredom if outside thinkers are not invited in.

Tension, the pushes and pulls: that’s what creates greatness. I am so thankful for the creative tension in our very own company. I am sure that our tension, mild tension, is behind our success.