Skip to content
Jan 14 / Abbey Leffler

Notes on “The Timeless Way of Building” by Christopher Alexander

The proper answer to the question, “How is a farmer able to make a new barn?” lies in the fact that every barn is made of patterns.

This is a passage from the book that I can apply to graphic design. I feel that I am able to create new designs and ideas by looking at the patterns that already exist. I am also able to take various patterns and combine, add or subtract from them and create something new. This passage is very applicable to graphic design.


These patterns in our minds, are more or less, mental images of the patterns in the world: they are abstract representations of the very morphological rules which define the patterns in the world. 

This is a unique concept because as people we all see things differently. Because of this we all create and design differently. The different approaches and ideas that everyone brings to the design world are inherently irreplaceable and learning from one another is our greatest asset.


the town slowly gets its structure from the incremental aggregation of their individual acts.

This idea shows that even the smallest decisions affect something larger that is taking place. This is very appropriate to typography. Typography is often something that is overlooked, but if someone notices the detail and all of the “small” decisions that went into creating good typography they will realize that those small decisions affected the whole.


When a person is faced with an act of design, what he does is governed entirely by the pattern language which he has in mind at that moment. 

Language is essential for design and language is a pattern that we have been taught that represents abstract ideas. Communicating these ideas visually as a graphic designer is so challenging because everyone has different patterns that they use to perceive the world.


At the time of any act of design, all we can hope to do is to use the rules of thumb we have collected, in the best way we know how.

I think this is a powerful statement. We all wander around collected knowledge on a daily basis and at the end of the day if we give design our best effort then that is all we can hope to do.