How can we establish whether a design meets its purpose? Usually we have a pretty good idea of this matter, but we always need to base our judgments, and the best way to achieve this is through an analysis; The Design Process.

For example we want to design a logo. First there must be a reason that drives us to do it. Maybe you want a logo for your portfolio; maybe a customer has contacted you to design a new brand logo or redesigning an existing one.

The idea is clear: without a reason or a purpose, there is no design.

The Design Process

First Cause

The reason whatsoever, we find the human need. It is called First Cause because without it there would be no design, is the seed from which the design emerges.

Because of this it should be very difficult to judge a design without knowing its root cause

Formal cause

We know we need a logo, we have even begun to imagine and takes shape in our minds. Surely we will take paper and start sketching to view the preliminary. At this point we also think how we will implement it: letterheads, cards, or if required for packaging in particular.

The whole process we envision is the formal cause.

Material Cause

We have reached the stage where we visualize the shape. We have a clear outline of the logo. But drawing is not the logo, is just a representation of how it will look.

You cannot imagine a real form if it is not expressed in some material way. We then have to think about the materials or medium that are occupied to express the logo; is only in digital form or in a particular material? colors and application: the material cause.

Technical Cause

It’s time to shape the design, we have a need, we have outlined, and we know how to express this design; now we use the tools to do so.

For example if we have decided to create a logo with a freehand feel, we will first need to create it on paper, ink it and scan it to later finish it on the computer.

On the other hand it can be a logo that requires a special font that we have to create. This is where you select the tools based on the above processes, these tools are varied and can range from paper, ink to Photoshop, illustrator (Never forget that the software are tools)

These four causes are always present when designing. What we do is a solution to the problem originally proposed:

How can we establish whether a design meets its purpose?

So now we know whether or not a Design achieves its purpose.

If the shape created meets the first cause, if it is expressed by means of appropriate materials, if they are well treated and developed and eventually the whole is done with economy and elegance, we can say that is a design and a good one.

External resources:

Design definition

Design with Purpose

Principles of design Series:

Our series analyzing the principles of design:

Principles of Design


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Javier Cantero

Javier Cantero