As humans, we are wired to love a good story. Stories connect us to each other and the world around us, and they have the power to inspire and captivate us. It is no wonder that the best designers in the world always tell compelling stories in their work. Jobs, Disney, and Wright, to name a few, all rooted their iconic and beloved designs in storytelling. For landscape architects and planners, storytelling is a powerful tool for designing communities and providing a clear path to realizing the true potential of a place. When combined with theming, pattern and form, and density, compelling storytelling works to create places where communities thrive.

Attracting users to a community requires crafting a community story that considers the users, environment, land, market, history, trends – and how all those elements interact.  Statistically, people remember stories 22 times more than facts alone (Jennifer Aaker, 2013), and the use of storytelling in design and community advertising can increase purchase intent by up to 67%. (Psychology Today, 2016).  These statistics suggest that using creative storytelling in the design process of master planned communities has the ability to enhance communication, increase engagement, and improve the overall experience of potential residents. By using visual elements and memorable narratives, designers can more effectively communicate their vision for the community and create an emotional connection with potential residents.

Community storytelling is also about exploring and inspiring the vision for what a community could be and the people who will be interacting with the place. By developing a clear and compelling vision for a community, designers can inspire and guide the development of a place. This vision should be grounded in the unique qualities of the site, such as its natural features, history, and culture. It should also be informed by the needs and desires of the people who will live, work, and play there.

Once the vision is established, theming can be used to create a place-focused brand that goes beyond name and graphics. Theming is a powerful tool for creating a unique and memorable sense of place and involves developing a cohesive design concept that is inspired by the history, culture, or natural features of a place. This theme can be applied to the architecture, landscape, and even the wayfinding of a community, creating a strong and cohesive identity that resonates with people.

Theming can also be used to reflect a larger company brand. For example, if a company has a focus on sustainability, this theme can be reflected in the design of a community by incorporating sustainable features, such as green roofs, rain gardens, and renewable energy sources. From an investment and value standpoint, themed master planned communities have been shown to increase the value of homes by up to 15%. (University of California, Berkeley, 2016). Also, a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders found that 73 percent of homebuyers prefer a community with a theme or unique character. (National Association of Home Builders, 2013).

Pattern and form are essential elements of landscape architecture and planning. They guide appropriate density and help to create an aesthetically pleasing and functional environment. When designing communities, pattern and form should be informed by the community concept and density. The community concept is the vision for the community, while density refers to the number of people living, working, and playing in a given area. These two elements work together to inform the design of the community, including the layout of streets, buildings, and public spaces.

Density is also essential for amenity design. Density allows designers to capitalize on greater demand to create more meaningful amenities. For example, a community with a high density of residents may benefit from a larger community center or park. These amenities can be designed to reflect the unique identity and story of the community, creating a sense of place and maximizing a sense of community.

In our industry, there is often a focus on “value engineering” in master-planned community designs.  At RVi, we believe that value engineering, which involves cutting costs to meet a budget, can often result in generic and unappealing designs. Instead, we set out to engineer value through memorable storytelling as the key to creating desirable places. By focusing on the storytelling aspect of a community, designers can create unique and memorable places that are valued by its residents and visitors.