10 Principles of Functional Design for Solutions
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Simplify Solutions
  2. Prioritize Functionality Over Form
  3. Strive for Efficiency
  4. Ensure Flexibility
  5. Prioritize User Experience
  6. Embrace Minimalism
  7. Design for Scalability
  8. Ensure Reliability
  9. Focus on Clarity
  10. Incorporate Feedback

When it comes to crafting solutions, marrying utilitarianism and functional design can be a game changer. Why? Because it's all about making things easier, better, and more efficient for the user. This piece will guide you through ten principles of functional design that you can apply to streamline your solutions and maximize their utility. So, let's dive right in and start with our first principle: Simplify Solutions.

Simplify Solutions

First things first, let's make it clear: simplicity is key. By keeping your design straightforward, you're helping your user navigate without the unnecessary hassle. Remember, you want your solution to be a help, not a hindrance. So, strip away the bells and whistles and focus on what truly matters: functionality.

Here's a fun way to think about it: consider a Swiss Army knife. It’s full of tools—from a knife to a screwdriver, even a toothpick. But what if we added a blender to it? Sure, it might sound cool, but it would be heavy, hard to carry around, and let's be honest, you probably wouldn't use it that often. This is a perfect example of how adding too many features can actually make a product less useful. So remember, when you're designing your solution, keep it simple. Stick to the essentials and make sure every element of your design has a clear, useful purpose.

Here are some tips for you:

  • Eliminate unnecessary elements: If it doesn't add value, get rid of it. Every element should serve a purpose.
  • Reduce steps: The fewer steps the user has to take to achieve their goal, the better. Think about the quickest, most efficient route from point A to point B.
  • Clarify your message: Be clear about what your solution does and how it benefits the user. No one likes to play guessing games.

By simplifying your design, you're not only making it more utilitarian, but you're also boosting its functionality. So, embrace the power of simplicity. After all, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Prioritize Functionality Over Form

Let's face it, we all love things that look good. But when it comes to design, prioritizing form over functionality can lead us down a tricky path. While a sleek, eye-catching design might win you some initial applause, it's the functionality that keeps users coming back. So, while form is important, functionality should always be your top priority.

Think about it this way: imagine you've just bought a shiny, new sports car. It's beautiful, sleek, and turns heads wherever it goes. But there's just one problem—it doesn't start. No matter how amazing it looks, if it doesn't serve its primary function (getting you from one place to another), it's useless. The same principle applies to your design. Users will appreciate a nice design, but what they really want is something that works well and makes their lives easier.

Here's how you can prioritize functionality in your design:

  • Understand your users: Get to know them. What are their needs? What problems are they facing? The more you understand your users, the better you can design a solution that fits their needs.
  • Test your design: Always test your design before rolling it out. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments. Remember, it's better to catch issues early on than to deal with unhappy users later.
  • Keep improving: You can always make your design better. Keep looking for ways to improve functionality and make your solution even more user-friendly.

By prioritizing functionality over form, you're ensuring that your design doesn't just look good, but also works well. After all, a solution that's functional is a solution that's truly useful—and isn't that the whole point of utilitarian and functional design?

Strive for Efficiency

Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to utilitarian and functional design. After all, who doesn't love getting things done quickly and easily? When you're designing a solution, always keep efficiency in mind.

Let's say you're designing a new app for ordering pizza. Sure, you could create a design that requires users to go through ten different steps to place an order. But wouldn't it be much better if they could do it in just a couple of taps? That's the power of efficiency. It saves time, reduces effort, and makes life easier for everyone involved.

So, how can you make your design more efficient? Here are a few strategies:

  • Eliminate unnecessary steps: Keep things simple. If a step isn't absolutely necessary, get rid of it. The fewer steps users have to go through, the more efficient your design will be.
  • Automate where possible: If there's a task that can be automated, go for it. Automation not only saves time, but it also reduces the risk of human error.
  • Use clear, concise language: Don't make users guess what they need to do. Use clear, straightforward language to guide them through the process.

Remember, an efficient design isn't just about speed—it's about making the user's experience as smooth and effortless as possible. And when it comes to utilitarian and functional design, that's a win-win situation.

Ensure Flexibility

When we think about utilitarianism and functional design, flexibility might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But it's an extremely important principle. Why? Because no two users are exactly alike. They have different needs, different preferences, and different ways of interacting with your solution. So, it's essential to design solutions that can adapt to a wide range of users.

Imagine you're designing a website for a popular clothing brand. The users of this website are diverse, ranging from teenagers to adults, and everyone in between. How can you ensure that all these users can navigate the website easily and find what they're looking for? The answer lies in flexibility.

Here are a few ways you can ensure flexibility in your design:

  • Provide options: Give users the freedom to customize their experience. For instance, if you're creating a music app, offer different themes, layouts, and settings so users can make the app their own.
  • Account for different user capabilities: Not all users are tech-savvy. Make sure your design is easy to use for beginners, but also has advanced features for more tech-savvy users.
  • Make it responsive: Your design should work well on all devices, from smartphones to desktop computers. Responsive design is a key aspect of flexibility.

By prioritizing flexibility, you're not just creating a design that works well for one type of user. You're creating a design that works well for all users. And that's what utilitarian and functional design is all about.

Prioritize User Experience

When it comes to utilitarianism and functional design, user experience is king. It's not enough for a solution to simply perform its function—users need to enjoy using it, too. This means creating a design that's intuitive, satisfying, and even fun to use.

Think about your favorite smartphone app. Why do you like using it? Chances are, it's not just because it does what it's supposed to do. It's because it's easy to use, it looks good, and it makes you feel good when you use it. That's the power of prioritizing user experience in functional design.

So, how can you put user experience at the heart of your design? Here are some tips:

  • Understand your users: You can't design a great user experience if you don't know who your users are. Conduct user research to understand their needs, preferences, and behaviors. This will help you create a design that truly resonates with them.
  • Keep it simple: Complexity is the enemy of good user experience. Strive to keep your design as simple and straightforward as possible. This means minimizing the number of steps needed to complete a task, reducing clutter, and using clear, understandable language.
  • Test, test, test: Once you've created your design, test it with real users to see how they interact with it. This will help you identify any issues and make necessary improvements.

By prioritizing user experience, you're not just creating a functional solution. You're creating a solution that people will love to use. And that's the true spirit of utilitarianism and functional design.

Embrace Minimalism

Let's take a moment to talk about minimalism in the context of utilitarianism and functional design. You see, minimalism isn't about having less—it's about making room for more: more attention, more focus, more understanding.

When we clutter our designs with too many elements, we risk overwhelming our users. They might get lost in the sea of options, unsure of where to go or what to do. And when that happens, the functionality of our design suffers.

So, how can we embrace minimalism in our designs? Here are a few ways:

  • Less is more: It sounds cliché, but it's true. Remove unnecessary elements from your design. This could mean anything from unnecessary graphics and images to superfluous features and functions. Only keep what's essential.
  • Use whitespace: Whitespace isn't just empty space—it's a powerful design element. It can help guide users' eyes, make your design feel open and inviting, and emphasize key elements.
  • Focus on clarity: Every element in your design should serve a purpose. If it doesn't contribute to the user's understanding or help them achieve their goal, consider removing it.

Embracing minimalism in your designs doesn't mean sacrificing functionality. It means enhancing it. After all, a clutter-free design is a user-friendly design. And in the world of utilitarianism and functional design, that's what matters most.

Design for Scalability

Have you ever tried to stuff a suitcase with more items than it can hold? It's not fun, is it? That's because it wasn't designed to scale beyond its capacity. Similarly, when we're talking about utilitarianism and functional design, we should always design with scalability in mind.

Scalability is the ability of a design to handle growth or change. It's about planning for the future, and ensuring your design can adapt to new user needs, increased traffic, or expanded services. Sounds important, right? It is! Just as you wouldn’t want a suitcase that can’t carry your vacation essentials, users don't want a design that can't grow with them.

So, how do we design for scalability? Here are a few tips:

  • Anticipate growth: Think about how your design might need to evolve over time. What features might you need to add? How might user needs change? Consider these questions as you design.
  • Keep it modular: A modular design is like a Lego set—you can easily add, remove, or rearrange pieces as needed. This gives your design the flexibility to grow and change over time.
  • Test it: Don't just assume your design will scale—test it. Simulate high traffic or heavy usage to see how your design performs under pressure.

By designing for scalability, we can ensure our design remains functional and effective, no matter how much it needs to grow. So, the next time you're working on a design project, remember: it's not just about meeting the needs of today—it's about anticipating the needs of tomorrow.

Ensure Reliability

Remember the last time you flipped a light switch? You probably didn't worry whether the light would turn on or not. You trusted it to work—you relied on it. Just like that light switch, your design should be reliable too. Especially when we talk about utilitarianism and functional design, reliability is a must.

Reliability in design means that your solution works consistently, every time. It doesn’t fail when the user needs it most. It's like a trusty old car that starts every morning, rain or shine: it might not be the flashiest vehicle on the block, but you can always count on it to get you where you need to go.

So, how can you ensure the reliability of your design? Here are some suggestions:

  • Test thoroughly: Testing isn't just about finding bugs—it's about ensuring your design works consistently in a variety of conditions. Think of it as a stress test for your design.
  • Design redundancies: Redundancies are backup systems that kick in if the primary system fails. They're like a safety net for your design, ensuring it can still function even if something goes wrong.
  • Keep it simple: The more complex your design is, the more things can go wrong. By keeping your design simple, you can reduce the potential for failure.

In the world of utilitarianism and functional design, reliability isn't just a nice-to-have—it's a cornerstone. It's what allows users to trust your design, to rely on it—and that's not something to take lightly.

Focus on Clarity

Have you ever tried to assemble a piece of furniture, but found the instructions confusing? You know, those diagrams that look more like cave paintings than helpful guides? That's a clear sign of a design that lacks clarity. When we speak of utilitarianism and functional design, clarity should be at the forefront of our considerations.

In design, clarity means that the user can easily understand how to interact with your solution. It's like a well-written recipe: it guides the user step by step, clearly stating what they need to do. There's no guesswork involved, no need to puzzle out cryptic instructions.

So, how do you ensure clarity in your design? Here are a few tips:

  • Use clear language: Plain, simple language is often the best choice. Avoid jargon or technical terms that the average user might not understand.
  • Use visual aids: Pictures, diagrams, and icons can often communicate information more clearly than words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
  • Organize information logically: Make sure the information in your design is arranged in a way that makes sense to the user. This might mean breaking complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps.

In the realm of utilitarianism and functional design, clarity is key. A clear, understandable design is like a well-lit path: it guides the user effortlessly, allowing them to focus on their goals instead of wrestling with a convoluted interface.

Incorporate Feedback

Imagine you've just made chili for the first time. You're pretty proud of it, but when you serve it to your family, they say it's a bit too spicy. Would you ignore their feedback and continue to make it the same way? Probably not. The same principle applies to utilitarianism and functional design. Incorporating feedback is like adding less spice the next time you make chili—it's a way to improve and adapt your recipe based on the preferences of those who will consume it.

Feedback is the secret ingredient in the design process. It provides real-world insights into how your design is performing and where it could be improved. But how do you go about collecting and using this valuable information? Here are some pointers:

  • Listen to your users: Your users are the ones interacting with your design. Their comments, criticisms, and praises are invaluable for fine-tuning your design.
  • Test, test, and test again: Don't be afraid to put your design through its paces. User testing can reveal issues you might not have noticed, giving you a chance to fix them before they become bigger problems.
  • Be open to change: Don't be so attached to your original design that you're unwilling to make changes. Remember, the goal is to create a design that works well for your users, not to stick rigidly to your first idea.

Just like in cooking, the key to successful utilitarian and functional design is understanding your consumers' tastes and preferences. So, don't be afraid to ask for feedback, listen carefully, and make changes as needed. Your users—and your design—will be better for it.

If you're inspired to delve deeper into the world of functional design, don't miss the opportunity to explore Rabih Salloum's workshop, 'Navigating Life - Part V.' This workshop will provide you with a wealth of knowledge and practical strategies to apply functional design principles to various aspects of life and business. Start your journey towards better design solutions today!