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What is Pattern Language?


Exploring Personal Growth, Human Potential, and issues of Importance in Life Coaching



Q. What does the term “Pattern Language’ mean?

A. Much of life consists of problems that need to be solved? One way of solving complex and extreme problems is through pattern recognition. There is a specific language that can be used to understand patterns – Pattern language.



Let’s start with some basics.


A pattern is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects. The elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner. Patterns can be based on a template or model which generates pattern elements.

Pattern Language is a term coined by architect Christopher Alexander, to define a structured method of describing good design practices within a field of expertise such as for example; architecture, baking a cake, or carpentry. Alexander recognized that a skilled person could create a specific, detailed description of a perennial solution to a recurring problem within a context. Like all languages, a pattern language has vocabulary, syntax, and grammar. Unlike most languages, pattern language can be applied to the solving complex problems that are not related to communication.

There are times where simply dissecting a problem into sub-problems will not make a solution apparent and the patterns that reflect the problem are not an apparent event, even to a trained mathematical mind.


Many problems, challenges or obstacles are made up of many diverse segments. Imagine them as individual boxes within a system. At times, it can be very difficult to see how these individual boxes are connected or linked to each other even though they are within the same system. One can assume that these boxes are linked because they exist in the same system but one still may be stifled in seeing where that link is. In fact, there are many situations where patterns exist but links have not been established to connect the sub-problems that make up the larger problem. Some problems are so unique that they are unlikely to be solved by traditional approaches such as logic, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, traditional mathematical analysis, dynamic programming, management science, etc. The easiest way to solve these extreme problems is through the study of patterns and isolating the pattern that links the segments or boxes.

So to review – A pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in an environment, and then describes the core solution to that problem, in such a way that one can use the solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice. Essentially, a pattern language is a network of patterns that call upon one another.

Since Pattern language is a wonderful tool for solving complex and extreme problems, advocates of this approach claim that people of ordinary intelligence with some specific skill can use it to successfully solve very large, complex design problems. When a skilled individual is designing something (whether it is a house, a computer program or a lamp), they must make many decisions about how to solve problems that will arise organically in the designing process.


By understanding patterns, they can document a single problem and by recognizing patterns, come to the best solution.

If you can, master the concept of pattern language you have the key to solving many complex problems even in everyday life.




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Lewis Harrison is an independent scholar on personal growth and human potential. He Coaches private clients in peak performance, transformation, and success coach.

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