Urban Design

Urban designer sketching ideas to improve a street

The Principles of Good Urban Design offer a set of values and goals to help you advocate for your community’s needs through design. The Principles are meant to inform conversations about the buildings, streets, parks, plazas, and all of the spaces in between that shape New York City.

The Principles were first released in 2017. NYC Planning transformed them into an illustrated guidebook with feedback from a wide variety of New Yorkers, including 1,500 who gave input online.



Why Are the Principles Important?

An important goal of the Principles is to democratize design. The Principles provide shared values and language through which New Yorkers can evaluate, discuss, and advocate for good design.

For example, you can use the Principles when discussing ideas for your community or in formal recommendations about a development project in public review.

The Principles demonstrate how design choices can influence everything from how the city looks, to job and housing access, to public health, safety, climate resiliency, and more.

Who Are the Principles For?

Members of the public: Those who live in, work in, and visit NYC have an intimate knowledge of the city and what they do and do not like. This guidebook provides the public with helpful tools to participate in the design process and help shape the city through their own lived experience.

The government: City agencies, elected officials, and other government entities play an important role in how public policy shapes the city. This guidebook can help ensure consistent design messaging across the government that is aligned with city policy and priorities.

Developers: Builders and other real estate professionals are responsible for developing and realizing projects across the city. This guidebook can demonstrate how good design benefits financial and community investments alike.

Professionals: Designers, planners, engineers, and other professionals are experts in creating and assembling the elements that constitute the city. This guidebook can provide professionals with important considerations to ensure these elements are shaped and organized in a cohesive manner.

Illustration of people walking, riding bikes and in wheelchairs

Everyone should feel safe and comfortable moving around New York City and enjoying its many open spaces. Good design can contribute to a more inclusive, enjoyable experience of everyday life in a city that fosters a sense of pride and belonging.

This principle speaks to:

  • Accessibility and Safety
  • Mobility and Connectivity
  • Comfort and Beauty
  • Quality and Durability
Illustration of people walking along a street with trees and buildings

People make our neighborhoods and the buildings ; parks and streets are their backdrop. Good design respects the histories, identities, and cultures that have shaped and continue to shape the city’s many diverse neighborhoods.

This principle speaks to:

  • Community and Diversity
  • Existing Networks and Uses
  • Natural Features and Resources
  • Building Features and Form
Illustration of people riding bicylcles, scooters and walking alsog storefronts

New York City is an unparalleled, dynamic, and vibrant world capital. Whether it is the iconic landmarks admired around the world, the bustling commercial districts driving innovation, the vibrant parks that everyone can enjoy, or the rhythm of apartment buildings that define a neighborhood – "New Yorkness” looks different in every neighborhood. Good urban design can challenge preconceptions, advance progress, and open new ideas.
This principle speaks to:

  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Flexibility and Variety
  • Old and New
  • Resourcefulness and Tenacity
Illustraion of people in a park walking and sitting

New York City must secure its future against many challenges, from the climate crisis to social inequity. We must make design choices that help us build a safer, stronger, fairer, more resilient city for generations to come.

This principle speaks to:

  • Sustainability and Adaptability
  • Equity and Opportunity
  • Health and Well-being
  • Diversity and Mutual Understanding