The “Why” of Design

After spending nearly a decade as a graphic designer, you foster a skill set that includes a solid work ethic, dynamic problem-solving, and the ability to juggle many tasks at once. Amongst the vast sea of elements and factors that make up a designer’s very purpose, there is one important question we must ask ourselves on a daily basis: “Why?”

Think Like a Designer
The “why” of design can be elusive. It’s not always easy to define; once you do, it’s not always easy to back it up. Therein lies the purpose of defining “why” in the first place. If you cannot provide an objective argument for why a design is meeting an end goal—why the circle should be blue, why the font works better as a script, or why the logo looks more balanced on the left—more often than not, it’s simply not the best choice you can make. The “why” should be the backbone of virtually all design choices, and a concrete answer should be prevalent.

Sean & Keith at The NJ Ad Club AwardsSean Healey and Keith Rizzi at the 2019 NJ Ad Club Awards

Defining Your “Why”
Design is the path to a visual, physical, or abstract solution. Once you know your problem, the process falls right into place. To achieve this, you must define your audience, develop your message, determine a strategy, and execute the answer, all in a way that engages and motivates your target demographic. More simply put, design is the path to a solution.

When you make choices as a designer, the science of visual communications is your friend. You shouldn’t just pick things you like simply based on preference; that would be subjective. In our world, your objective choices must be driven by your message and audience. For example, if you’re designing for a wedding and the client has selected a garden theme with a variety of flowers, natural wood, and delicate lace, do you use a flowy script or a chunky army stencil font for the wedding invitation? I would recommend the former. Why? Because the script lends itself to the delicate nature of flowers; it’s more feminine, more natural and handmade, just like the other elements surrounding the event to match your garden theme. Your audience—the bride, groom, and guests—should feel immersed in the theme in order to inspire a memorable experience, starting with the invitation through to the final farewell at the end of the reception. Just like that, you’ve defined your “why”, and your design choices are that much easier to make.

Question Everything
The world is full of design that can be improved upon. It’s our job as designers to question what is put in front of us and ensure that communications are sending the correct message. If a client is seeking a professional designer for a project, we are in luck. They already value design in some way. Now it’s on us to drive the concept home and end up with a solution that the client loves, that you are able to stand behind, and most importantly, that motivates an audience. We achieve this by questioning everything. Font, layout, spacing, color, copy, interactions, interface, mood, overall experience, analytics … the list goes on.

My goal is to inspire you to use your “why” to formulate an answer and use what you’ve come up with as a building block to find the solution. Through this process, you can achieve excellence through design and ultimately accomplish the mission you set out to do… evoke action from your audience, which then drives engagement and provides concrete results that back your “why!”