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Appearance is created by the combination of all elements, such as layout, scale and landscaping. It is also greatly influenced by the choice of materials and detailing used.

What a place will look like is often mistakenly understood to mean its design. This in turn is often wrongly read to mean architectural style. Materials and architectural detailing are very important to how a place will look. But appearance is really the visual representation of all the decisions that went into the design. So layout, scale and landscaping will all affect what a place looks like. We can use the same basic materials, street furniture and things in different places and they can end up looking unique. Similarly deciding to paint all street furniture blue, red or black will not really affect the overall appearance of the place.

Click here to access our lesson on The individual elements


When considering whether the appearance of a place is well-designed, you need to ask:

1. What will the place look like?

2. Will it look good?

3. How will this relate to the area?

4. Does the scheme feel like a place with a distinctive character?

5. Is the design specific to the scheme – was it designed for this place?

6. Do buildings and spaces exhibit architectural and design quality?

7. Will the appearance be maintained?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Application boundaries

Application boundaries and land ownerships need to be identified very clearly for a multitude of reasons. It is the first step in knowing where proposals sit in relation to other buildings and land ownerships. There are also legal obligations and responsibilities to the land that is being proposed for development. So accuracy and clarity are paramount.

Click here to access our lesson on Technical drawings

Artistic images

Artistic images are impressions of how a proposed design might look and feel. They can be hand-drawn, computer-generated or physically made to scale.

Click here to access our lesson on Artistic images


Start by learning about the site and the context for your design. Remember context means not only the physical surroundings, but also what local people and agencies want to see happen, what is going to be commercially viable and what policies say you must achieve.

Click here to access our lesson on Design process

Assessing highways schemes

Standard formats for assessing and presenting an evaluation can be useful in assisting highway professionals and designers explain why they feel a scheme is good or bad. For many years road safety audits where used (done by separate assessors) and the reports helped inform approval and funding decisions. Road safety audits can be very useful, but they are only as good as the information given to the assessor and do not generally provide a single, watertight answer.

Click here to access our lesson on Making balanced decisions about highways schemes

Assessing the design components

Thinking about the individual components of a design can help you to assess the quality of a scheme. A good way to do this is by asking questions about each of the individual components: how do they work, do they fit in, what are they for?

The components you need to consider are divided into eight categories.
  • access
  • amount
  • appearance
  • landscape
  • materials
  • scale
  • use

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the design components

Assessing the quality of a place

When presented with a scheme, it's important to be able to think objectively about how good the place will be. To do this you need to think about the following questions:

1. Is it designed to fit well with its surroundings? Does the scheme exploit existing buildings, landscape or topography?

2. Will it meet the requirements and aspirations of present and future users?

3. Does the scheme respect the historic environment (it should maintain or enhance existing historic elements/environments)?

4. Will it create a place everyone, regardless of physical or other abilities, can access and use easily?

5. Will the scheme ensure optimum resource efficiency (in terms of energy, water and land)?

6. Will it create a healthy and safe place to be in (no undue risk of accidents, comfortable temperatures, protection from flooding, opportunities for fresh air, exercise, peace and relaxation)?

7. Will the scheme enable travel, reducing congestion and accidents?

8. Will the place be maintained to a high standard, and will it continue to be somewhere people will value, appreciate and use?

Click here to access our lesson on Assessing the quality of a place


Information that should be provided on an Axonometric image include:

  • building massing (so how big the buildings are, how wide, deep and high - their 'mass')
  • building heights
  • indicative built form (an indication of what MIGHT be built, shown for illustration)
  • overall 3-dimensional character of proposals rather than detail
  • The image can be measured from, as it doesn't use perspective.
  • easy to draw up

Click here to access our lesson on Artistic images


Balancing streets

We should be designing and managing our streets to support least energy hungry modes of travelling. In other words more walking, cycling, bus and train use, and less cars, please. We should also recognise that many streets play a role as outside living and community spaces, they are not just used for movement.

Click here to access our lesson on Streets and the movement network

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