Do you want your project to reflect the designer’s vision or your own?  DOWNLOAD NOW

Do you want your project to reflect the designer’s vision or your own?  DOWNLOAD NOW

Design Done Right: Introducing the Core Needs Design Method

If you really want to understand the power of 3 Lights Design’s signature process, a process known as the “Core Need Design Method”, it’s good to start with of the the most pressing, broader challenges facing the United States.

If I were to ask you, “What’s the number one health crisis right now in the United States?” What might you say?

There is an answer. But if you don’t know it already, please take a moment to ponder what you think it might be.  (I promise, if you don’t know already, I’ll tell you in just a moment).

Next, do you think such a health crisis could only be solved by the medical establishment alone or might there be room for other professions to be involved?

In answer to the first question, according to the former Surgeon General under Barak Obama, Vivek Murthy, the number one health crisis in the United States is… (drum roll please)…


I must admit, when I first heard this late last year, isolation as a “health crisis” seemed a bit off.

But, as it turns out, it’s spot on and speaks volumes to the way we’ve inadvertently designed and built our human made environments without actually accounting for our core human needs.

Apparently, for various reasons, including the proliferation of social media, increased work demands, and lack of quality time with friends and family, isolation rates (apparently they can measure such a thing) have doubled since the 1980’s.

And the experience of isolation, and loneliness (isolation’s more experiential, less clinic form) is not just an unpleasant emotional experience.  It can have grave physical consequences, too: according to one study, prolonged loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Whoa!

As I thought about this more deeply, as I let this sink, in I was overcome with a strange mixture of both sadness and excitement.

My sadness stemmed from recalling my own experiences of isolation, those challenging and painful times I’d felt cut off from the rest of the world, times when I’d been unable, unwilling, or afraid to connect with the people around me, including close friends and family members, as though I had to show up looking my best and have the right answers ready to go, or not show up at all.

Not only that, not only did I recall feeling isolated from people, I could also vividly remember times where I felt cut off from places, too, like there was some strange filter, some invisible barrier between myself and environments that surrounded me.

Have you ever had such experiences?

My excitement, though was quick to follow.  Although isolation as an epidemic is indeed a dire snapshot of the current state of American culture, it’s cure is inexpensive, low tech, and readily available.  My excitement stemmed from my realization that I (and everyone else for that matter) had the power to do something about this.

Not only that, isolation may be experience by an individual, but its really arises from that individual lack of connection with his or her surroundings.

In other words, we have a health crisis that’s unlike any other.  Instead of driving us to quarantine the sick, and stay out of the streets, the isolation epidemic is reminding us what we really truly need to be healthy: strong, heart-felt connections with all those around us.

In Search of Our Core Human Needs

While the magnitude of the isolation epidemic came as shock, the fundamental importance of connection, face to face, human to human connection, to people’s well being was not news to me.

Between 2004 and 2012, I was furiously writing on the subject of creativity, culminating in a book I released call The Shoreline of Wonder: On Being Creative.  In my quest to come up with a definition of creativity that explained creativity’s seemingly universal appeal, as well as its ability to be applied to and to enrich all human activities, I came to a somewhat startling realization.

Our unique characteristics as  human beings rest in two observations: 1) we are the only species that truly creates and 2) we are the only species that chooses to take our own lives.

When I realized the conditions that drives a person to take their own lives, which are 1) thwarted connectedness (isolation), 2) thwarted effectiveness, which together lead to 3) the desire for death, when I realized what core human needs were not being met, I soon became acutely aware of what the core human needs actually are.  (If you’re interested, I wrote a short ebook on the subject called Between the Bridge and the Water: Death, Rebirth, and Creative Awakening.)

The Core Human  Needs as a Framework for Great Design

In short, the 3 core human needs are:

  1. The need to connect
  2. The need to make a difference
  3. The need for meaning

Utilizing these needs as guidelines, we at 3 Lights Design consciously and very intentionally fulfill our clients core human needs by 1) taking time to develop rapport, trust, and truly get to know them right from the start (connection) 2) empowering them as our valued teammates, advisors, and co-creators on the project (making a difference), and 3), through our signature Full Spectrum Client Intake, get a clear sense of their beliefs and values, and set clear intentions so as to infuse their project with what meaningful to them.

In doing so we don’t have to guess what the client’s want; we actually begin to experience the project through their eyes and become true advocates for their project.

A Closer Look at the Core Human Needs

Connection: As human beings, all of us have a deep need to feel connected, connected to other humans, connected to the environments we inhabit, even to the greater cosmos. Accordingly, from our very first phone call, through our mandatory intake process, and throughout the project, we build and maintain strong, respectful, mutually supportive relationships with everyone involved, including the contractor, sub-subcontractors, and other building professionals.

Making a Difference: All of us have a desire to contribute, to make the world a better place.  Knowing this, not only do get to know our clients, we enroll them as our teammates. As the experts of their own lives, we encourage their honest feedback, ask for their suggestions, and take their comments to heart.

Unlike other firms who view themselves as the experts and the clients as either ignorant, or even as liabilities threatening to ruin their own firm’s signature style, our clients report feeling a deeper sense of ownership and fulfillment by having been explicitly encouraged to collaborate with us right from the start.

Welcoming our client’s valuable input helps our firm, too, allowing the 3 Lights Design team to continuously grow and evolve.

Meaning: With the remarkable gift of conscious self-awareness–our awareness of being aware, we humans have been chewing on the great mysteries of life, “Who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from?”, for hundreds of thousands of years. And despite the surging advances of technology and the stunning array of information available to us, our core need for meaning, deep, heart-felt meaning, has only gotten stronger.

Better Projects Both Inside and Out

By discovering our client’s beliefs and values, enrolling them as co-creators in the process, and creating a clear set of intentions beyond just the scope of work, the project becomes way more than an just and exercise in altering the physical world. The process becomes a deeply fulfilling, deeply enriching transformative experience for everyone involved.  

For the client, our goal is that they enjoy and feel so much ownership for having co-created their space together, that they become natural stewards of both their projects and the land those spaces occupy.

And for architecture, building design, and the building trades, we are a mission to grow ecosystems of good will, mutual respect, and stewardship among all the parties involved.

If you have a residential or commercial building project in mind and are interested in co-creating with us, or if you’re an architect or designer looking for new and enlivening approach to design, even if you live outside the Bay Area but are in need of clarifying resources, please get in touch with us. We’re here to help!



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