This unit contains four sections. Work through the content in order.
Purpose is the most abstract of the fundamentals (meaning it is the only unit of this workshop that will not have visual examples), but it is perhaps the most important.
Purpose isn’t a singular design element (like a font or color). It’s not something you can point to in a design or deliberately add with a click of the button. Instead, purpose is the heart of your design. It is reason for the design to exist in the first place.
Purpose is a message and, in many cases, a call to action.
Consider these examples:
A good design tells the audience something and then encourages them to take a certain action. Simply put: A design without purpose is just noise.
Because purpose is so integral to good design, it is important to start with this fundamental whenever you tackle a new design project. You can identify your design’s purpose by asking yourself three crucial questions:
Let’s look at each question a bit closer…
The goal of most design pieces is almost always a very focused message—some important information that needs to be passed from you to the audience.
Examples of Focused Goals:
Whether you’re designing digital graphics (to share online) or print pieces (to share in person), the goal remains same: Tell the audience a specific piece of news or information.
There may be instances where you don’t have a specific piece of news to share and instead want to focus more on your author brand, or perhaps your books as a whole.
Examples of Broader Goals:
In these examples, the goal is less about sharing a specific piece of news and more about boosting visibility and awareness of you, the author, and/or your books.
Regardless, it is important to know what your goal is when you sit down to work on a new design. Always, always, always identify your goals first. If there’s more than one, that’s fine! Make a list and prioritize it from most important goal to least. Then keep these goals in mind as you work through the rest of your questions.
Knowing your goal (message) isn’t enough. You also need to identify who this message is targeting. Different professions, groups, and ages will require different communication approaches.
Your knee-jerk reaction may be to say, “I’m targeting all readers!” but this is rarely true.
For instance, if you write gritty thrillers or horror, you’re likely not looking to reach readers of cozy mysteries or romance. Your genre is a great starting point when trying to determine your audience.
Similarly, consider the age group you write for. You can directly target adult readers without too much trouble. Teens, too. But kids (picture book category up through middle grade) get tricky. While the books are meant for children, it is often hard to reach these children directly. Your design may want to target the gatekeepers of this age group instead (think: parents, teachers, librarians).
After you identify your audience, you need to figure out how you’ll reach them. What medium will you be designing in? Digital or print? If digital, where? On social media, via a website, a newsletter, etc?
Consider these questions carefully, because the answers will influence your designs.
You may have multiple answers to this question, and that is fine. Some design campaigns you undertake will look to reach an audience in multiple places, in multiple ways. Keep in mind however, that the specs for designing in print are different than the specs for designing for web/digital. (More on this later.)
For now, let’s use some examples to better illustrate this:
In this example, the author ends up reaching the audience in the digital medium but in multiple places. The author is able to create ONE design that works across all these platforms.
Once you’ve identified how and where you’ll reach your audience, it’s time to think about how you want them to react after seeing the design…
If your audience takes away only one thing from your design, what should it be? The answer to this question is directly tied to the goal (message) you’ve already identified.
Here are some examples of very focused goals and the desired takeaway for the audience:
GOAL: announce that your book is currently on sale TAKEAWAY: the sale price, the dates the sale runs, where the sale is being offered
GOAL: share blurbs for an upcoming release TAKEAWAY: impressive praise
GOAL: announce a book tour TAKEAWAY: appearance dates, times, and locations
Even if you have a broader goal, something more focused on general promotion, there should still be a takeaway for your design.
GOAL: promotional bookmark swag TAKEAWAY: general book info (such as cover, release date, praise, etc)
In marketing campaigns, a call to action (or CTA) is a written directive that encourages the user to take a specific action. A link or button that says “Buy Now” or “Subscribe Today” are basic examples.
Many of the designs you create as an author will be static graphics for social media or print pieces. They won’t have a traditional CTA. But it is always beneficial to think about what actions, if any, your design is encouraging users to take.
Let’s build off the three examples outlined above:
GOAL: announce that your book is currently on sale TAKEAWAY: the sale price, the dates the sale runs, where the sale is being offered RESPONSE: buy book
GOAL: share blurbs for an upcoming release TAKEAWAY: impressive praise RESPONSE: preorder book or add book on goodreads
GOAL: announce a book tour TAKEAWAY: appearance dates, times, and locations RESPONSE: register for event and/or add event to personal calendar
Again, even with broader goals, there are still responses that you can strive to achieve:
GOAL: promotional bookmark swag TAKEAWAY: general book info (such as cover, release date, praise, etc) RESPONSE: take bookmark home, use while reading or give to friend
Thinking about these things upfront will streamline your design process later. It will also help you identify what information is the most important to communicate, which feeds into the second fundamental, Hierarchy, which we’ll get to in the next unit.
Remember that you cannot create purposeful designs without a goal, or without a desired takeaway/response. If you become stuck while designing, return to these core questions.
Congrats! You’ve finished the first unit. Ready to move on?Start Unit Two: Hierarchy