Good design for all

July 8, 2014

We are living in a new era of design. No longer reserved just for the rich or those with artistic sensibilities, good design has become democratized, and extends now even to the most mundane of everyday objects—such as phones, door handles, and vegetable peelers. The idea that design is, or should be, inextricably entwined with usefulness is not a new one,  having first been written about by the Roman architect Vitruvius, more than two millennia ago. But the idea that good design is for everyone and, moreover, that everyone is interested in and wants it is a more recent one.

In today’s marketplace, creating design that is inclusive rather than exclusive makes sense because good design begins with meeting the needs of its users. Finding out what your customers want is the first step toward good design and home builders, in particular, have felt the pressure to up their game. Many of them have made some big shifts in order to accommodate their buyers’ wishes. For example, plans, once updated at the beginning of a season, are now continually in flux due to fast-paced changes in energy-efficiency strategy, construction innovation, and home design trends. 
This month’s issue of Professional Builder focuses on design, but it goes farther than simply providing a collection of pretty houses. Instead, it offers articles that illuminate the utility of good design for home builders and their customers. Articles such as KTGY principal Manny Gonzalez’s piece on the opportunity to invent home building’s future through the widespread use of universal design, ensuring that more new homes will be available to a wider swath of potential buyers. Also included is a primer on BIM, which discusses the features and benefits of adopting the entire process, one of which is the possibility of significant cost savings for builders. And our House Review feature offers a variety of multigenerational house plans for that burgeoning segment of the market.
PB editor Mike Beirne’s story on mass customization outlines some of the benefits and pitfalls of customizing homes for buyers, while a look at innovative community design points out ways to create communities that make it easy for shoppers to envision themselves living there. And speaking of shoppers, our story on memory points offers more than 20 ideas for making your models memorable for them. After a few days of touring new homes, it may very well be something like one of these special touches that has customers coming back for another look.
Defining good design has always been difficult. Often, people will just tell you they know it when they see it. Probably the best definition comes from our old friend Vitruvius who described it as solid, useful, and beautiful. But no matter how you define it, creating it requires a great deal of research, thought, and planning. But it’s worth it. In addition to attracting more customers, it will tell them you care about details, and it will inspire confidence in the quality of your overall product. PB
editorial director

Denise Dersin, editorial director of Professional Builder, Custom Builder, PRODUCTS, NKBA Innovation+Inspiration, and co-editor of Multifamily Design+Construction, has been in publishing as an editor and writer for 30 years and has worked in the housing industry for much of that time.