The “purpose” of design (& why you should care)

I grew up in a small town. Surrounded by people who didn’t see design as important – much less as a career.

After discovering art and design at the University of Illinois’s Saturday Art and Design School (which was mindblowing for 7th grade Charlee 🤯), I went all in.

For the first time, I was thinking about why design matters and how it makes a difference in the world.

This is what I found out – and what I’m still pondering 15 years later.

The importance of purposeful design

I like things to be beautiful, yes.

But I think more so than some other designers, I like there to be a purpose for a design decision.

Purposeful design has a positive impact on your society. Purposeful design moves people to make life-changing decisions. Purposeful design transforms brands and uplifts communities.

Want a summary of my design philosophy? That’s it.

Take the iPhone for example. Steve Jobs and his chief designer Jony Ive set out to design technology to move society forward. To do that, they couldn’t just create another cell phone that looked like the others – grandiose, blocky and plastic.

They flipped (no pun intended) the phone on its head and asked how they could completely transform the idea of phone design. And look what happened.

That’s design that serves a purpose.

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Why design matters

Every design decision should have a clear and justifiable purpose. That much is clear.

Our approach at Emerald prioritizes purpose from step one. We understand the problem we're trying to solve …

  • Do you need a brand that moves your financial institution into the 21st century?
  • Did you pivot your business and want to refresh your brand to resonate with your new target market?

Then create designs that serve that purpose.

Sure, we think at length about what our design does for you and your brand.

But design matters more than that.

Design is more than just aesthetics. It's a tool that can be used to solve problems and create positive change.

A tool that can be used to make the world a more connected place. A more empathetic human experience.

Call me crazy. But when our design …

  1. Solves a problem and
  2. Serves a purpose,

… It feels good. It feels like equilibrium. It feels as if the world is in balance.

And that’s a great feeling.

How my life informed Emerald’s design philosophy

Our focus on purpose and impact means all our designs aren’t only aesthetically pleasing. They’re meaningful.

And that’s what sets us apart from other design agencies.

We only work with companies that prioritize purpose and impact in their design decisions.

Working with companies that share our values has been a gamechanger. If they don’t understand the importance of design apart from its marketability, it’s not a great match.

Here’s another great example: We worked with the Live Like Lou Foundation to bring more awareness to the disease ALS.

Inspired by Lou Gehrig’s autograph, we designed a forward-looking, optimistic and hopeful brand that honors its roots.

Great design matters. It serves a purpose for you, your customers and your community. Want to get it right the first time? Holler at us.

Or subscribe to our newsletter Design Dispatch to stay updated on our design philosophy and hear about our future availability. We promise to share some behind-the-scenes information too.