How Design Creates a Sense of Place

Beyond providing structure and form, design creates a sense of place

When the average person hears the words architecture and design, it likely brings to mind iconic structures like the Guggenheim Museum in New York or Colorado’s famed Spaceship House. However, design also informs every aspect of everyday buildings, both exterior and interior, and a thoughtful design helps create a sense of place for the people who use it. 

Designing a Place lays out the “11 Principles of Placemaking” in this piece. Item No. 2 speaks to design: 

You are creating a place, not a design. The blueprints for a neighborhood improvement effort are much less critical to its success than other factors, such as a management plan and the involvement of local citizens.”

That list goes on to remind city planners, architects and designers to observe the community in action, seek feedback from the people who will actually use the place and to create a form that supports the intended function of a building or area. 

When these principles align, the design moves from impersonal blueprints to living, breathing spaces where life and connection happen. 

Australian Architect John Flynn expands on that idea in this interview, saying: 

“The location is really what drives the place. You can’t just go and create a fake place – a Disneyland somewhere… It’s really getting the ideas from the developer, the site and then the community…and how we can add value to that. Everyone wants to live somewhere great.” 

Later in the interview, he says that what sets great cities apart is the spaces in between buildings: the places where people gather and connect. Designing with those connection spaces in mind can foster a deeper sense of place and belonging for the people who move through an area.

In the multifamily industry, we know that each renter wants to get the most for their money, and it’s not just about luxurious amenities or high-end finishes. It’s that something extra. The vibe you get when you first walk into a place and it seems to draw you in. A well-informed design that takes into account the needs of residents and the community can elevate an apartment from space to place. 

Communicating Place

In our discipline, of course, we’re not designing physical structures. However, the principles of placemaking inform how we design each website, marketing piece or other communication vehicles. The colors, the fonts, the images, the empty spaces all help convey in print what the place will deliver in person. 

For example, this hero image we created for Clovis Point, in Longmont, Colorado, uses a number of design elements that immediately connect the reader to the place: 

A hiker on a summit and a topographical map overlay communicate Longmont’s natural beauty and resources before the prospective renter steps foot in the community. The tagline “find your way home” appeals to explorers and seekers who want their home to reflect their values and purpose. 

In contrast, this piece we designed for The Fillmore Center in San Francisco reaches an urban audience and shows an understanding of their lifestyle needs:

In a city like San Francisco, residents don’t want to worry about their commute, and a multifamily community that solves that problem for them becomes a place they want to be. 

When we work with savvy developers and planners who fully grasp the power of placemaking, magic happens. With our graphic design and marketing, we communicate their physical design as much more than a series of glass, steel and brick. The outer aesthetics of a building matter a lot, but residents also must grasp how that building can become a place of meaning; how it can be home. 

To learn more about how we help multifamily brands communicate a sense of place, contact us for a free consultation.

Posted By

Sara Bess