The Power of Design

Architecture and design. It surrounds us every day, from the technology we take for granted to the inspiring buildings we seek out on voyages around the world. Design is discussed passionately as a catalyst to change the world; a powerful tool with which to enhance the lives of many. People young and old, rich and poor, educated and ignorant are all immersed in a world that seeks innovation and relies on design for survival. Design causes us to pause, reflect and communicate about its very existence. It goes beyond our personal preferences and touches that which is common to all of us: the human condition. The power of design is that it connects with us by providing community, nurturing creativity and seeking divinity.

Within each of us is a desire to belong. We have an innate need to feel accepted, loved, and cared for. Architecture is the container in which we create communities and feed this basic need for a sense of belonging. Architecture is a vehicle for interaction and communication; the conduit by which we develop relationships. Within community, we discover who we are. Architecture provides the setting for developing us into the people we are – and who we will become. Humans are fragile beings that need shelter, regulation, direction, vision and purpose. Design enables us to grow and discover who we are.


Our nature is one of curiosity, wonder and a sense of awe. We are different from animals in that we have a desire to create. Beyond our basic instinct for shelter, we create for pleasure and for discovery. There is a human need to make, to build, to design, to create. Creativity is a gift that is given to us that can also be passed down to others through our creations. It is implicit that design is creative; we praise those creations which break the rules and transcend cultures and generations. We crave designs that create meaning and relate to us on a deeper level. Architecture that is said to ‘stand the test of time’ is not loved because of its specific details and material choices. Architecture that appeals to a broad audience appeals to them on a basis far beyond the tastes and styles of an era or historic period: it appeals to their very nature, to the core of their being. Architecture that transcends is that which connects to a person at their inner most being and resonates with their most basic needs. Design that empowers, that invokes a sense of awe, that brings pleasure and that defines meaning – this is the design that is timeless.

Our desperate need for meaning in a monotonous existence manifests itself as a response to something outside ourselves. Whether we seek to improve humanity or discover divinity, we are all ingrained with a sense of higher purpose and calling. We aspire to design something that will outlast our own lives. Architecture is often thought of as the highest form of art and science, as it is a legacy that is left behind for future generations. It is this legacy that we seek to protect and seek to propagate. It is not a legacy of stone and mortar, but of ideas. The architecture we build, leave behind and protect represents a sense of purpose, and with purpose comes meaning. If we can communicate our hopes, our aspirations, our dreams, our goals through architecture, then those ideas will last beyond our lifetime and impact the future. It is with passion that we design, so that what is carried forward will convey the urgency and the purpose with which it was made.

Architecture is a monument to the human condition. As we strive to find meaning in our lives through design, through community, and through seeking a higher purpose, we do so within architecture. Architecture is both the beginning and the end of the equation, acting as the conception of an idea and the container in which new ideas are born. The beautiful reciprocity of design is that it both defines us and is defined by us. This is the power of design.

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  • Very nice. I like it when people take a step back and write reflective posts on what design or architecture means. What I’d love to hear about, now that you’ve discussed the importance and meaning of design, is how you think the profession of architecture is doing at fulfilling it.

    • Thanks for the comment. You’re right – the next step is to see how we are doing in regards to this post. Actually, this is part of my thesis for a book I plan to write. So the answer may be a ways off, but know that I’m thinking about it! 🙂

  • Marcus Taylor

    Architecture as the container to create communities is very profound. Unfortunately it works equally in reverse when we see the sorts of communities that grow from English Council flats, Australian housing commission and the typical American housing Projects. The ghetto mentality is very hard to resist. Thank you for your post

    • You’re exactly right. The design and the architecture can directly influence what type of community is formed, and how individuals behave. It makes design that much more important and I hope we all rise to the challenge of creating spaces that are positive impacts.Thanks for stopping by!

  • Great post Brinn! We do have an inherit need to transform our
    environment, turn raw materials into spaces that create emotional thoughts, in
    this spaces we grow, we live, our memories are framed by this.