Design Is A Process, Not An Outcome

Too often, consumers and businesses that require a ‘good design’ refer to it as if it is a commodity when in actual fact, design is the process – not the outcome.

Like anyone, I appreciate ‘good design’. ‘Good design’ is everywhere (among a fair bit of bad design too I might add). Thanks to reality TV, the average punter has a basic concept of design – what presentation does for a dish, how space pulls focus not clutter, what colour contrast does to a living space, hell – they now call it a ‘space’ not a room or a backyard. There is now a refined general knowledge around designing the environment around us and identifying ‘good design’.

But identifying it is one thing, understanding it is another. It’s worth noting that design is the process that forms the result and dictates the success of the outcome. A ‘good design’ is merely an outcome that represents a well thought out and executed design process.

The process is again broken up into many facets that make up design. Design is an idea + research + concept experimentation + testing + refinement + more testing + more refinement + finishing.


All of these facets require thought into how each fits in with each other all the while keeping an eye on how the sum of these parts fits with the desired result. Through testing, questions need to be answered: Does this solve the problem? Will the result forged from this design process succeed in helping the client engage with its target audience? These, among many more, are questions that need to be answered throughout the process.

A healthy ratio of form and function need to be applied throughout the process also. It’s no good having an aesthetic result that looks great but doesn’t serve the main purpose. Conversely, a result that is very functional but doesn’t solve aesthetic issues will never be more successful than outcomes that address both.

If ‘good design’ is simple design and you believe in ‘less is more’, you can bet your bottom dollar that the design process leading up to the outcome considered many different avenues: more complex ideas, more comprehensive tests all allowing for the result to be pared back at the end when clarity was reached. This illustrates that simple design is not quick and easy… simple design is incredibly difficult to achieve, takes time and is the goal of every designer.

So the next time you see something that you identify as ‘good design’, even if it looks so simple that ‘anyone could’ve done it’, its worth considering how much work was done in the background to:

  1. produce a result that dictated a successful outcome
  2. allow a paring back to simplicity that efficiently directed a clear message to the target audience
  3. achieve both a great look and a functional purpose

That is a great outcome, not a ‘good design’. Design is the blood, sweat, tears and expertise that went into forming that great outcome.

Feature image: Don Cafe | Image © Atdhe Mulla