Calling it a design doesn’t make it one.

(Note: The debate about whether something becomes art because it has the label “art” has been had approximately 1.4 million times, and it is not a question addressed in this Truth.)

“Design” is the resultant of an aesthetic vision combined with a functional goal. It could be a web design, a building design, a logo design, a clothing design, etc., but the functional goal is crucial. If I draw a tree on a piece of paper, I haven’t “designed” a tree, I’ve drawn a tree.

The difference matters in how designers and the design process is perceived by non-designers. Well-meaning clients who offer feedback in visual form without taking into account the functional goals create problems: the designer becomes frustrated that the client assumes drawing is the same as design, and the client becomes frustrated that he’s paying the designer to do something he believes he can do himself.

The design process can be helped by explaining to the client at the beginning of the process what makes design “design.” Emphasizing the goals of the project (a more legible logo, a LEED-certified building, a waterproof poncho) and how the visual components will achieve those can help focus all involved on how to solve the problems at hand.