I recently came across the ten principles of good design, with respect to minimalism. Former German Architect Dieter Rams formulated his ten design principles when he asked himself if his design was ‘good’ and meaningful or was it merely adding to the overall failed designed and built solutions. Dieter answered his own question by creating his ten principles for good (minimalist) design; principles focusing on the essential characteristics for minimalist design solutions where “less, but better” prevails.

Dieter’s ten principles sparked my own search and internal hypothesizing of the principles of good theme park design. I asked myself, what are the essential ingredients of themed design theme park Architects, designers, and engineers use to makes ‘good’ thematic design solutions? After researching this topic, I found little meaningful insight – most of them merely describing one’s ‘favorite’ or ‘most thrilling’ theme park attractions, shows, or glorified operational guidelines and ‘commandments’. While those traits are important, they are not guiding design principles.

Architectural Design on a computer screen

I’m searching for the core, guiding design principles a theme park design should consider prior to and during the design phases for new theme park attractions, lands, or even entire new parks. Taking inspiration from Dieter Rams, and since I have found no pre-existing guiding principles, here are my top ten principles for meaningful theme park designs.

Guiding Principles of Theme Park Design

1. Good theme park design should push technological boundaries

The possibilities for innovation are endless. Technological advances offer new opportunities for immersion into innovative theme park design.

2. Good theme park design makes a product’s story meaningful

A good theme park design solution has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also the narrative’s aesthetic and emotional. Good theme park design emphasizes the usefulness and function of a story while negating or screening anything that would detract from it.

3. Good theme park design is aesthetically supportive of the theme

The aesthetic quality of a story is integral to its meaning and its justification for translating it into the built environment. But only well-executed stories can be beautiful when brought to life in the third, built dimension.

4. Good theme park design tells a clear story

A clearly defined story design and built in the third dimension must be self-evident. Convey or support only one story or theme, as multiple, conflicting stories being told at once only confuse the end user.

5. Good theme park design screens the banal and the obtrusive

Theme park designs shall obstruct or conceal any physical or psychological elements that are a detraction from the story or theme being told in the built, third dimension.

Click Here To Learn About Other Guiding Design Principles

6. Good theme park design shall include a crescendo

Theme park designs shall support the overarching story or theme being conveyed and regardless of their function – attraction, show, transportation, food & beverage, etc. – each should have its own crescendo to its supporting storyline. A subplot payoff for the user supportive of the larger narrative.

7. Good theme park design is great storytelling in the third dimension

Good theme park design, regardless of its physical type – building, landscape design, interior design, attraction, show, transportation, is a meaningful and specific narrative conceived and implemented in the third dimension.

8. Good theme park design details support not hinder the story

Nothing arbitrary or non-supportive of the story or theme should be apparent. Care and accuracy in the design process and implemented design for every primary and secondary detail shall all be considered and addressed in the final design. But, only the design details supportive of the story shall be experienced by the end user.

9. Good theme park design is safe and environmentally-friendly

Good theme park design makes end user’s personal safety and the preservation of the environment the highest priorities. Its design makes every attempt to make the personal safety of its end users and its operational custodians and conserve natural resources while minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout its lifecycle the top priority.

10. Good theme park design is efficient with its details

Good theme park design is clear, concise, and devoid of unnecessary, ‘design for design’s sake’. Ultimately, only the theme park Architect and their design sub-consultants are capable of making and implementing that determination.

J. Daniel Jenkins THEME PARK DESIGN RESOURCES
About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is a licensed Architect and a former Walt Disney Imagineer with over twenty four years of Commercial + Themed Entertainment design, design mangement, and A&E subject matter expertise. Jenkins, President | Owner of Holihoon Media LLC, is also the Founder | Chief Editor of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture, engineering, and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment centric topics and travel.