The Design Quality Indicator (DQI) is based on a research project to provide a toolkit for improving the design of buildings. It seeks to complement methods for measuring performance in construction by providing feedback and capturing perceptions of design quality embodied in buildings. The research team worked closely with the sponsors and an industry steering group to develop the indicators that could be readily used by clients and practitioners to better understand and promote value through design. The development and piloting process was explored within a context of lessons from earlier attempts by others. The three main elements of the DQI toolkit (conceptual framework, data-gathering tool, weighting mechanism) mapped the value of buildings in relation to their design for different uses and their ability to meet a variety of physical, aspirational and emotional needs of occupants and users. The DQI pilot studies consisting of five design and construction projects are discussed along with their graphical representation of results generated by end-users, individual team members and project teams. The process raises questions about the difficulties in the description and application of indicators for design quality. It is argued that the benefit of the DQI is a 'tool for thinking', rather than an absolute measure, because it has the potential to capture lessons from current building design for strategic future use as well as initiate, represent and inform discussions involving designers', clients', producers' and end-users' perceptions on the tangible and intangible aspects of possibilities within live design projects. The limitations of the approach, the next phase of development and further research issues are raised.