The cell-biology of intercellular communication between T cells and their partners has been greatly advanced over the past 10 years. The key morphological and motility features of cell contact-based communication between T cells and APCs can now be seen as a collection of patterns for cell-cell interactions amongst immune cells more generally, each serving to contribute to the outcome of the contact both locally and globally. Here we review the conservation of these patterns, amongst which is the emergent "immunological synapse," and describe a newly defined example, formed between the adjacent activating T cells. We subsequently seek to put these and the pattern more generally into the framework of system-wide behavior of the immune system. We postulate that the patterns are fine-tuned to provide quorum-like decisions by collections of activating and activated cells that interact over time and space.