Cable-stayed structural architectures, which use a combination of bending and axial load-carrying modes, are potentially more efficient than structural architectures that rely only on bending. However, they are not widely used at present. In this paper, an analytical framework is established to compare the load carrying performance of cable-stayed vs. bending architectures by considering limiting conditions such as global buckling, local shell buckling, material failure, and excessive deflection. For structures of equal span, material properties, mass, and maximum deflection limit, the most efficient cable-stayed geometry is determined and its performance is compared to that of the beam. It is shown that the cable-stayed architecture is more efficient at withstanding external loads and remains optimal over the bending architecture. Design charts for optimal designs of cable-stayed structures for a range of lengths and loads are provided.