Is design subjective?

Here lies an ever more important and relevant question for the creative industry, with the growing popularity of social media we see up to hundreds of designed content posts everyday, mostly from brands using adverts, or businesses sharing curated posts.

But is design really subjective? How can not understanding the subjectivity in design affect the visual impact of your business?

We believe there is huge importance in understanding the subjectivity of design work. Firstly creatives need to be able produce designs that suit a desired subjective presence, in order for the second point. Which is that consumers need to have a reaction about that design to take any interaction away from it.

Good design is not subjective. Visual communication (design), is planned and executed with purpose. Understand this, and you will realise the potential visuals have to drive your business.

If effective design is put into practice, no matter the job, a good designer will ask themselves various questions to make sure they can meet a briefs objectives. This includes asking the question “why”. Why have I designed like this? Why didn’t I do it like that? When creatives answer these questions throughout the design process, it generates strong outcomes with clarity and construction. Due to thought being considered towards the way a design will be received by a consumer, that is not subjectivity, a response is accumulated through careful planning.

“It doesn’t matter, design is subjective anyway”, should ring alarm bells for consumers and creatives. This can indicate the customer has actually asked for something they do not value. For your business this is also alarming, you should ask designers, “why have you created something like this?”. Then hope to receive a response, if not, then they were probably not really considering the outcome at all, indicating a bad design practise.

From a business point of view the statement: “It doesn’t matter, design is subjective anyway”. in response to something you don’t like about a design. The designer might as well just create any old crap, without any planning. This is because, that statement suggests any visual can be perceived any way by anyone. Therefore suggesting all design is in-fact completely subjective.

Art is subjective. Design is not; to a degree (we do all think differently at the end of the day). We believe sometimes businesses can not see the value of design because of how much design can seem artistic in the modern world. We are at such a high level of visual presence that design and art can become blurred. But if you remember that design has a process, you will understand how it can work for your business to harness outcomes, goals and communicate objectives in the right way. Design is considered first, then created second, it all falls down to how you plan as to how consumers perceive the outcome.

World famous brands such as Apple, Nike, Mercedes-Benz and Amazon, all produce visual communication which expresses what they want to say to their target audience. This takes careful planning, research and understanding of the end goal. Therefore, is design really subjective? We certainly don’t think so.

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Related reads:

Start With Why By Simon Sinek
The Brand Gap (Revised Edition) by Marty Neumeier
The Brand Flip By Marty Neumeier.