Define your purpose to achieve your desired outcome - for design projects and beyond

Every business needs a purpose. Design does too!

A clear purpose drives everything from your marketing and sales efforts, to your product development, and customer service. It’s what makes your business unique and sets you apart from your competitors.

If you’re a small to medium-sized business, it’s especially important to have a clear purpose. After all, you don’t have the same resources as larger businesses, so you need to be strategic about where you focus your time and energy.

Design needs a purpose too. As a graphic designer, it can be challenging working with clients who don’t have a clear vision or goal for their design project. It makes it difficult to deliver what they want, and it can lead to wasted time and resources.

That’s why it’s so important to start by defining your purpose for every design project, big or small. This means understanding your business goals, your target audience, and the specific outcome you want to achieve with your design project.

A step-by-step guide to defining your purpose

Start with your business goals

What are you trying to achieve with your business? What are your long-term goals, and what are the short-term? Once you have a clear understanding of your business goals, you can start to think about how design can help you achieve them.

#designtip – Start with your “why”. What is your motivation for starting and running your business? What do you wish to achieve? Once you understand your “why”, you can develop a purpose statement that reflects your values and goals.

Consider the impact your business will make

What do you want your business to be known for? What kind of impact do you want to have on people: your customers, employees, and community; and the planet? Your purpose should be aspirational and inspire you to do your best work.

#designtip – A straightforward way to measure impact is to identify and set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), metrics your business can use to measure progress towards its impact goals. KPIs can range from increase customer satisfaction, to reducing waste, to investing in local community.

Identify your target audience

Who are you trying to reach with your design? What are their needs and wants? What kind of messaging and design will resonate with them? Once you understand your target audience, you can create a design that is tailored to their specific needs.

#designtip – understand your target audience by analysing your existing customer base. Who are your best customers? What are their demographics and psychographics? Create an ideal customer persona for reference.

Define the specific outcome you want to achieve

What do you want your design project to do? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Generate leads? Drive sales? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can create a design that is focused on achieving that outcome.

#designtip – set specific design outcomes that align with your brand values. For example, if you’re a business that sells organic clothing you might want your labels and packaging to reflect your commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness. A deep understanding of your brand values and ethos will make it easier to set clear design outcomes.

Keep your purpose in mind throughout the design process

Every decision you make, from the colours and fonts you choose to the layout and content of your design, should be driven by your purpose.

#designtip – to avoid deviation, keep your brand’s purpose and values readily accessible as a reference point; it could be a simple collection of bullet points on a whiteboard or your style guide.

Use clear and concise language

Avoid jargon and technical terms that your target audience may not understand.

#designtip – better understand your target audience by creating simple ideal customer personas for reference.

Include a clear Call to Action (CTA)

The purpose of your design project is directly linked to your CTA, the final outcome you wish your audience to take. Be clear in what you want your audience to do; whether it’s visiting your website, signing up for your newsletter, or making a purchase.

#designtip – Your CTA should start with a verb that tells your audience exactly what you want them to do: “Sign up,” “Download,” or “Buy now.” Make it specific by telling your audience exactly what they will get if they take action: “Sign up for our newsletter and receive 10% off your first purchase.”

Use my ‘Getting to Know Your Brand’ Approach

If you are struggling to understand your purpose my ‘Getting to Know Your Brand’ approach is a great way to review your brand. My handy worksheet will help you reflect on your:

  • Current customers and target audience
  • Existing strapline
  • Mission statement
  • USP (unique selling point)
  • Core values
  • Brand values

The results may surprise you. If you decide to update elements of your brand, your designs will be more consistent with your brand purpose, helping you achieve your business goals.

The significance of purpose in design outcomes

It’s crucial to understand how and why defining purpose will influence the outcomes you achieve. Purpose serves as the North Star, guiding every design decision you make, ensuring that each element contributes meaningfully to the project. Purpose can be broken down into several layers:

Business Goals

Design Purpose: To communicate your brand identity and values, and to attract new customers.
Outcome: Increased brand awareness and lead generation.

Target Audience

Design Purpose: To create designs that are tailored to the needs and wants of your target audience.
Outcome: Increased engagement and conversions.


Design Purpose: To promote your business and its products or services, and to encourage potential customers to take a desired action.
Outcome: Increased brand awareness, lead generation, and sales.


Design Purpose: To provide information about your business and its products or services, and to encourage visitors to take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for your newsletter.
Outcome: Increased website traffic and conversions.

Website Pages

Design Purpose: To provide specific information about a product or service, or to encourage visitors to take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a free trial.
Outcome: Increased sales or leads.

Print Literature

Design Purpose: To provide information about your business and its products or services, or to promote a specific offer.
Outcome: Increased brand awareness, lead generation, and sales.

Defining purpose is essential for any business, but it’s especially important for small businesses. Why? A clear purpose will help you make strategic decisions about your business and ensure that you’re using your time and resources wisely. And, by starting with a clear understanding of your goals and cascading that purpose to every design element, designers can ensure that their work not only looks impressive but also serves a meaningful function.

Remember, purpose is not just a buzzword; it’s the key to unlocking design projects that drive real results. So, next time you embark on a design journey, start by defining your purpose – it’s a step that will set you on the path to design excellence.

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Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash



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