HGH Consulting


Design: so how does that work?

The Government has issued a consultation on its guidance regarding the National Model Design Code, and there is much in the content that is of merit. But in considering a response we would do well to remember Steve Job’s quote:

“Design is not just what it looks like or feels like. It’s how it works.”

I have never met anyone who wants to live in a poorly designed place, and despite the reports to the contrary from the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, I have never met a developer who says they want to build such a place. But many agree there is room for improvement and anything that helps shape that agenda has got to be a good thing.

The Right Resources

Well, of course there have been guides and design compendiums before and you might ask: why these have not already been delivered? Actually, in some places of course, they have, and the answer may not lie only in the developers’ willingness to deliver high quality design which is affordable (to them and the purchaser) but equally in the need for the right resources and skills in the local councils. To be effective, codes and guides need the right resources. A new breed of design officer must have the experience, ability and political support to deliver the outcomes envisaged.

Fixed ideas

Some might also argue that there are bear traps to avoid along the way. Codes can result in the lowest common denominator becoming the norm, and developers choosing the easiest bits to implement without regard to the whole place. There is a risk they stymie diversity and innovation. The recognised importance of the community voice is welcome, but beware the voice of the ‘worthy few’ who may have have quite fixed ideas as to what ‘fits in’.

Built as Designed

And, of course, a plan is only a plan if it delivers what it says. Schemes that are approved need to be built as designed and not watered down after approval.

This is an opportunity to raise afresh the standard for good design and we should embrace the good intentions. It is important however to remember Steve Jobs and focus on “how it will work.”


Image: Qusai Akoud on Unsplash


Steve Quartermain, Special Planning Adviser, hgh Consulting
[email protected]

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