Design is a process, not an outcome

07 February 2024

When I started designing it was because I was drawn to the outcome of design. The aesthetics, form and colour. This is simply because that’s what I could see. But it took me years to understand that design is more than just the deliverable that’s printed on finely textured paper. I needed to understand why that texture was chosen in the first place.

This notion of defining design by its outcome is more common than we think. You’ve probably hear the expression: “my 3-year-old could have drawn that”. The work’s effort tends to be measured on its outcome. Maybe the business needed a logo that’s designed by a 3-year old. But how the designer reached that conclusion is what matters.

In his Principles for Good Design, Dieter Rams believes that good design is unobtrusive.

Think about that for a moment.

Good design shouldn’t be there at all. It should be discreet, and unnoticeable. We shouldn’t even “design” it.

I think that this design principle is a very good way of translating that design is a process and not an outcome.

When you lift your phone, the display lights up. Isn’t this clever design? But it’s invisible, intangible, and for the untrained eye, this is not design. But there was a process and so many decisions behind this interaction. The display only lights up when it’s tilted at a certain angle, but not another, whether the phone is positioned portrait or landscape, face up or down.

The process is our work’s story and it gives weight to our work. This is why we present our work in crafted decks and not just send a bunch of files. This is why we write case studies and don’t just upload a set of images and videos.

We need to let our clients in on how we approached a problem and arrived at the chosen conclusion. Then we can truly trust the process.