When the arts draw from one another for inspiration and concepts, it is said that the artists have adopted a new “vocabulary.” A couple of pop-culture examples: MTV's fast-paced music videos use the cinematic vocabulary established by director Richard Lester in his mid-1960s Beatles movies. And for my money, the dizzying car chase scenes from the recent thriller The Bourne Supremacy owe something to the vocabulary of Cubism. These days, it seems safe to say, architects and designers are quickly learning the vocabulary of healthcare design, as espoused by The Center for Health Design, this magazine, and others.

Some elements of that vocabulary: natural light; human-scale spaces (some lobbies excepted!); soothing color choices (or exciting ones for kids); energy conservation features; the appurtenances of hospitality; and planning for staff convenience. Having just reviewed the 142 project submissions in our September Showcase issue, I feel confident in asserting that many architects/designers are “getting it.” Perhaps you've noticed this, too.

As with any vocabulary, though, the question becomes, once you've learned it, how do you use it? Do you do so eloquently? Imprecisely? Imaginatively? Inconsistently? The question ultimately goes to mastery of the vocabulary and its use. And the answer will come from visitors and occupants of these facilities—patients, families, healthcare professionals, and even fellow healthcare designers checking out the competition, all of them looking around and forming their impressions.

Yes, the world is seeking more hard data on the practical health and economic consequences of healthcare design. And, yes, academia and organizations such as The Center for Health Design are producing that data in impressive fashion. But, as with any design, the ultimate test of this unique mix of art and engineering is the effect it produces on the beholder.

As HEALTHCARE DESIGN continues to evolve, we plan to delve further into this vocabulary and how it's used. The September Showcase issue showed that the process is well under way. Let's see how the language grows. HD