There are so many metaphors for good design. But, as I learned about each of the projects for this year’s Dream Designs issue, one in particular stuck with me — that of a story.

I’m a writer — and a human being — so I love a good story. I’m glad to say that we have plenty of them here. Let me tell you about a couple.

Seven years ago, a philanthropist in Texas opened a nonprofit amusement park for the special-needs community, inspired by a daughter who lives with both physical and cognitive disabilities. It has been so well-received that the young lady’s parents recently extended the property to include the first waterpark designed for the differently abled.Special features make it suitable for those with different sensitivities and abilities — even resulting in the development of new technologies.

Then there are two towns — Dodge City, Kan. and Round Rock, Texas — that have deep roots in the Old West. Despite their history, each also has an influx of recent residents for whom the city is new. To maintain that sense of history and tight-knit community, both decided to imbue their new aquatics centers with signs of the past. In one case, residents even donated historic artifacts to place in the park.

But it isn’t just the story behind a design that makes it special. The design is the story — it should have a main concept, which all details and choices serve to develop. It should unfold and draw you through. That’s what happens at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The design team charged with adding a network of pools and play features had to reconcile the tone and aesthetics that appeal to small children with the styling of a five-star luxury resort. Here, too, local history provided the thread to tie everything together. It would tell the story of a 19th Century citrus plantation estate, with a faux decomposing mansion that flooded into lazy rivers and water slides. Meanwhile, the adults-only zone was placed near the resort and more closely mimicked the architecture, providing a nice visual buffer between the main building and the play features on the other side.

And, like a good story, a good design looks as if it just happened on its own, organically. Great storytellers make it look easy — and so do great designers.

I hope you enjoy the tales that this year’s Dream Designs have to tell.