Design Terminology 101


Design Terminology 101

With the design industry continuing to change, it's never been more important to talk the talk. We've put together a quick reference guide of some terms that you need to know.

By Ben Frotscher, AnnMarie Martin, Erika Templeton

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    Elevation for the New School by SOM, an example of active design. View larger

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    Herman Miller Public, an example of touchdown spaces. View larger

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    An example of bottom-up design is designer Sarah Miller's Objects Made exhibit. (see “Taste Makers,” Interiors and Sources, May 2014) View larger

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    Active Disengagement is addressed by Territory from Inscape. View larger

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    Gesture Chair by Steelcase, an example of multi-posture support. View larger

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    Rely by American Seating, an example of a flipped classroom. View larger

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    Beat Grey Group from Tom Dixon, an example of metallic versus metalized. View larger

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    Vistas by Michael Graves for CF Stinson, an example of biophilia. View larger

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    ROCKFON’s Magna T-Cell systems contain 100 percent recycled aluminum. At the end of the ceiling system’s useful life it is 100 percent locally recyclable. Photo by ROCKFON, Epstein, and Hedrich Blessing View larger


Terms You'd Better Know

Active Design
Obesity in the United States has never been a bigger problem. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Design can have a profound impact on today’s biggest health epidemics—including obesity—by developing buildings, streets, and neighborhoods that make daily physical activity and healthy foods more accessible and inviting.

Chemical Red List
The growth of evidence-based design (see #3 below) continues to demonstrate the connection between healthy indoor environments and positive outcomes for overall well-being, and it’s never been more important to design spaces that will have a significant impact on people’s health. Chemical red lists have proliferated as designers demand transparency in material ingredients used by manufacturers. Whether you follow Cradle-to-Cradle, the Heathy Building Network, LEED v4, the Living Building Challenge, Pharos, Perkins + Will’s Precautionary List, or even Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services Green Team, all have their own watch list of the worst-in-class materials that should be avoided at all costs when designing healthy interior environments.

Evidence-Based Design
From daylight penetration to color selections, layout options to furniture selection, the days of designers making design decisions in a vacuum are a thing of the past. Evidence-based design is what separates the designers from the decorators, by using research and analysis to factually prove that each design decision is best for overall health and experience of the end-user, and make a strong case for the impact our work can have.

Mass Customization
More than 20 years ago, Levi Strauss was one of the first to dive into mass customization, with the launch of Original Spin jeans. Mass customization is a production process combining mass production with bespoke tailoring, made possible by information technology and digital fabrication techniques. Companies are increasingly able to offer custom options while maintaining the low price point of a mass produced product—allowing designers to create unique and personal items, without breaking the budget.

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