Purpose and Design: two sides of the same coin

Before you hired a designer, did you ask yourself, what is the purpose of the job you are requesting of them? Did you simply request them to create a logo, brand identity or a website, and they jumped right to it, no questions asked?

If you hired a truly professional designer, they will always ask about the goals of your brand, details of your target market and your aspirations for the future of the project.

That is because good design and its purpose are inseparable. You cannot create a professional logo, brand design and website without taking their purpose into account.

Design is needed to achieve goals

According to Alan Dix from Interaction Design Foundation, “Design is about achieving goals with constraints”. Any design, in the correct definition of this word, will entail a solution to achieve a certain goal.

If you design without purpose, you are simply creating a pretty picture. It can still serve its function as your logo, visual identity or be a pretty website. However, without the purpose designed into them, they will not be effective.

If there is no purpose built into your design, it is not a design, it is a pretty picture with a function.

To be successful, each brand needs a differentiation strategy. Without it, your audience won’t know why they should choose you over your competitors. Design is one of the most essential tools to communicate how you are different from the rest and why your audience should choose you.

Design is a communication tool

As human beings, we use words, body language and signaling with material objects to communicate with other people and show our individuality. A brand does not have a body all the time (even for brand of individuals), to use all those communication tools. Therefore, visuals become a version of body language and signaling, to get through the clutter, reach your target audience and resonate with them.

Designing purpose into your visuals, turns them into communication tools that work to achieve your goals. Designing with purpose, you build a certain message into your visuals that will be communicated to your audience. Without thinking through what this message should be, you leave your audience to interpret whatever they want, and your message might get lost.

Each design can have a different purpose. A purpose of the logo and brand identity will be different from a purpose of your advertising poster. The purpose of each design will depend on the goals it’s trying to achieve.

Here is a list of some possible purposes your design might have (the list is far from exhaustive):

  • communicate a certain message
  • serve as your brand’s recognition (logo, design elements, etc.)
  • explain who you are and how you are different from the rest
  • create a certain atmosphere
  • motivate to take a certain action
  • prevent from taking a certain action (for social or environmental projects)
  • entertain
  • communicate social status
  • stand out, rebel
  • etc.

Example: brand identity for a park

Imagine, you are building a brand for a park. People visit the park to relax, escape the city and enjoy nature. Your goal – attract more visitors to the park.

What can be a possible purpose of park’s visuals in this case? Let’s brainstorm together. 

1. Designing without purpose

Without a purpose, you are most likely going to share nice photos of the park and add some leaves and green colors to the brand identity. Your logo is most likely going to be a leaf or a tree (or several trees).

Purpose of design: example of logo without purpose
Logo designed without purpose
Purpose of design: example of visual identity without purpose
Visual identity designed without purpose

Just like in these examples, these can still be pretty visuals. They will communicate the message that this brand is a park, through basic associations. It is nature, it exists, come and see it. Its message ends here.

Do you believe that this will make people more likely to go to the park than simply telling them “hey, there is a park in the center of the city, it has trees, and it’s green, visit it”?

2. Designing with purpose

Now let’s go further. Instead of being a simple association, let’s make the purpose of the visuals to communicate the atmosphere of the park and how they will feel when they visit it.

More specifically, we want them to know, that when they visit the park they will feel relaxed, connect with nature and will have fun.

With this purpose in mind, we design this visual identity for the Lake Bridge Park in Portugal. The visuals communicate a relaxing atmosphere through the use of calm color palette and hand-drawn elements. These elements represent the variety of bridges found in the park, as well as symbolize a bridge to escape into nature amidst a busy city life. Playful letters and placement of elements, diluted with bright leaves, help create that “breath of fresh air” and fun moments that they can experience when visiting the park.

Once they get a sample of the feeling they can experience in the park, they will know exactly what to expect. The design creates the desire to experience it, thus attracting more visitors to the park.

When you create a purpose for your visuals with your goal in mind, the designs work for you to reach that goal.

Effective design is an investment that brings return. That’s exactly why when we work to create your logo, brand identity or communication visuals, we will first go through your goals and brand strategy. If you are just starting and don’t have a defined brand strategy yet, we will help you create one.

Contact us, and we can discuss your project’s aspirations, goals and visual communication.

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