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The Design Matters Toolkit supports developers in adopting the three core practices for achieving people-focused design:
Mission - Design - Impact




Tool: Project Mission Writer

Craft a simple, bold vision for your development.

When to use:

  • Pre-development
  • Value engineering

Skills learned:

  • Goal setting
  • Consensus building
  • Identifying & leveraging assets

Project Mission Writer

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Tool: Project Mission Writer


A written project mission statement is the best way to incorporate people-focused design into any affordable housing project. This practice will help you:

  • distinguish your project with a clear vision in a competitive funding environment,
  • ensure that your design and development teams make informed decisions from the same playbook during value-engineering
  • enable creative visioning to retain big project goals, even when budgets change.

Additional Resources: Want to focus your project mission on achieving a specific outcome, like health or aging in place? See our Targeted Outcomes resources.




Tool: Design Principles Primer

Expand your design vocabulary and grow your leadership in the design development process.

When to use:

  • Project design kick-off meeting
  • Ongoing design meetings 
  • Value engineering 

Skills learned:

  • Creative problem solving
  • Effective design team partnership

Design Principles Primer

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Tool: Design Principles Primer


Achieving good design within the demanding affordable housing ecosystem requires sustained leadership. The best person to provide that leadership is a developer who can comfortably walk the line between the constraints of development and the tools of design. The practice of building your design vocabulary provides:

  • the ability to ask more and better questions of your design team,
  • savings in time and money by extracting more from your design earlier in the process, and
  • creative agility when a design strategy is no longer feasible.

Additional Resources: See our Case Studies for design principles in action.





Tool: Impact Measurement Guide

Identity your project’s scales of impact and measure how your design decisions advance your mission.

When to use:

  • Pre-development
  • Post-occupancy

Skills learned:

  • Identifying outcome types
  • Determining what to measure
  • Leveraging evaluation in seeking funding

Impact Measurement Guide

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Tool: Impact Measurement Guide


Despite the power that measuring and sharing your impact can have, the process can easily become an afterthought. By establishing a project mission to focus goals from the outset and understand the types of impacts you might have, recognizing the indicators and measuring the outcomes becomes a natural part of the development timeline. The practice of measuring impact:

  • allows you to make powerful, data-driven arguments for investing in quality, people-focused buildings
  • adapts your future project designs to be as efficient and effective as possible
  • distinguishes your team in a competitive funding eco-system

Additional Resources: Look to the Targeted Outcomes resource section to adapt specific needs, such as healthy living or senior housing, into your project.


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