Insights December 03, 2022

What is good design?

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You are about to start on a construction project and have looked at dozens – or maybe hundreds – of pictures of similar buildings. No doubt you will certainly see examples that resonate with your aesthetics. But is this all there is to good design? And if not, what else is there?

Architectural design encompasses quite a wide range of topics. The list below is from the site, Designing Buildings, a wiki-style compendium of construction:

Aspects of a design that might be assessed could include:

  • How well the design represents client values.
  • How spaces relate to each other.
  • How well the design creates places for entry, reception, breaks, catering, and so on.
  • The impact on the local community and environment.
  • Whether the design is accessible and welcoming.
  • Accessibility.
  • Quality of views and outlook.
  • The internal environment; lighting, heating, air quality, acoustics, etc.
  • The ability of individuals to control their environment.
  • Comfort of furniture.
  • Use of colour, texture, light, planting and so on to enliven the environment.
  • Flexibility of layout.
  • Overall standard of materials and finishes (including life-span and maintenance issues).
  • Sustainability of materials.
  • Build quality and robustness of systems, finishes and fittings, furniture and equipment.
  • Energy consumption and pollution, both in construction and in use.
  • Whether the design promotes reduction, reuse and recycling of materials.
  • Innovation of design.
  • Buildability.
  • Whether the design is economical and safe to use and maintain.
  • Security.
  • Whether the design exploits opportunities for standardisation and prefabrication.
  • Whether the design takes account of current and proposed legislation.
  • Whole-life cost assessment including disposal method.
  • Risks associated with the design.

This list certainly covers items that you can interrogate from glossy project pictures, but there is clearly much more that goes into the construction of a building than just the final finishes.

One of the ways to start engaging with this list is to ask yourself whether good design – or quality – is a priority.* The Design Council have compiled research relating to housing, education, healthcare and even crime which overwhelmingly indicate that projects having good design as an essential outcome have lasting economic and social value.
* You can read more about the time-quality-cost way of thinking about a project here:

Speaking with different architects can further help you set your own design objectives. Below are some headlines from our own peer studios:


We believe architecture has the power to improve lives and make communities happier and stronger. We have a knack for building relationships, exceeding expectations and delivering projects with people at their heart. 

Gbolade Design Studio

We create places that people love! We are an award-winning architecture practice specialising in sustainable design; making exciting places and buildings with people at the heart of our process. We achieve this through analysis of, and, insight from existing communities, and respond within the framework of our Ethos: design-led, sustainable, innovative, community-centred and commercially-minded.


Participatory design is an approach and philosophy that supports the direct participation of users and other stakeholders at all stages of the project. It results in richer, more inclusive designs and encourages a transparent process whilst promoting positive debate.


We want to create places that reflect the personalities and values of the people who will use them. To achieve this we design through a process of dialogue and co-creation. We start by asking questions, playing games and testing scenarios. We design together: informed by the ideas and ambitions everyone brings to the project.

Collective Works

What is Responsible & Beautiful design? We find beauty in harmonious, colourful, legible spaces which improve personal health and well-being. Walking through your home or workplace should be a unique journey of spaces with unexpected moments of joy. We recognise a responsibility to you, the planet and society at large. We create healthy, natural environments and advocate for low carbon construction with enhanced biodiversity.

Going beyond this, you could try to visit the built projects of the architects you are considering and certainly to talk to the clients who commissioned those buildings.

This legwork will help you understand what criteria define good design for you and help to make your project a well-designed one on your own terms.

Let’s have a chat about your vision and
how we can help you realise it.

Collective Works are an architecture & design studio. Our network of professionals will create your perfect solution.