What is the Purpose of Design?

There is no purpose to design. It’s a trick question, see, because design is a tool. It’s a process, an action. When we ask “what’s the purpose of design?” we might as well ask “what’s the purpose of creating?” The answer is tautological: the purpose of creating is to create.

But really, we’re not asking the right question.

What’s the Right Question?

The real question isn’t “what’s the purpose of design.” It’s actually “what is your purpose?” Once you identify your goal, your dream, your purpose, then you have purpose-driven design.

I won’t try to go into detail on purpose-driven design, because the brilliant Amy Cueva has done a much better job of it. So here’s a snippet from her recent article:

“Companies are already harnessing the power of design to create a better experience and imagine a better world. But if the challenges we face today tell us anything, it’s that we need to move past Design Thinking into Design Doing.”

 Let’s do more. Let’s design with purpose. Amy calls it purpose-driven design.

Purpose-Driven Design

As they say in Avenue Q, “Purpose. It’s that little flame that lights a fire under your ass.” However, Avenue Q’s Princeton is seeking a purpose “before it’s too late.” Outside the fictional world we aren’t constrained by a 2hr plot, and we spend our lives finding flames that light our fire.

We have tools at our disposal to focus on purpose-driven design. This means taking the things that light our fires, and using them to light our designs. We need to focus on the challenges around us. We need to design with purpose.

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