Why are lemons yellow?

The importance of ‘why?’

Friday 28 June 2019

Why are lemons yellow?

In my blog post about ‘Briefing a designer’ from earlier this year, I looked at all the things that I like to know before I begin a design project, and why. In this post, I want to expand a little upon the importance of ‘why?’.

I think it’s fair to say that a lot of children go through a phase where ‘why?’ seems to be their favourite word: Why do I have to go to sleep now? Why can’t I have any sweets? Why are lemons yellow?* Why?

For some people, curiosity persists long after childhood, and ‘why?’ continues to be an important question. For designers, ‘why?’ can open the door to design solutions which are more relevant, effective, creative, and timely.

The answer to a ‘why’ question can give rise to insights large and small. You might understand the reason for a business’s existence – something that could underpin every element of their marketing.

On a project level, ‘why’ is no less powerful. What does a project aim to achieve? Why? Who do you want to communicate with? Why? What work needs to be done? Why?

A client might be very happy with the advert their designer created to help publicise their services. But a designer who knows why the client has chosen to publicise that particular service to that specific audience in that way at that point in time might discover a much more effective ‘hook’ upon which to hang a creative concept. But most importantly, the finished design would then answer the actual, underlying brief far more effectively.

Taking this a step further and questioning why an advert was the chosen vehicle for this publicity might lead to understanding the urgency (a last-minute advertising opportunity, perhaps), or a discussion about alternative formats.

Even thinking in practical terms, ‘why’ is still a really helpful question. Understanding the reason why there is a particular project deadline in place might not sound important. A deadline is a deadline, after all. But if your designer knows it’s because you need the printed materials for an event, then they could potentially divert the delivery to the venue if there are any delays during production.

* In case you’re wondering, lemons are yellow because of the bioflavonoids in their peel. The intensity of the colour is caused by anthocyanin, a pigment which is present in greater levels in more acidic fruits.

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Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent typographic designer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan