Compendium of Design

A Body of Knowledge
Learn from those who designed before you.

Design Factors

Design factors are the key categories that all design specifications (and therefore by default, constraints and considerations) are based on. They help the designer identify the critical aspects that a design solution will address. Although there is no definitive list of design factors, the following list provides an overview of commonly used categories:


Every design should have a clear purpose for its existence. It should fulfil or respond to a genuine need in an authentic way. A design's overall purpose can come from a wide range of influences depending on the discipline. Here are some examples:

Product Design

Product Design 
  • Make life easier
  • Ergonomic comfort
  • Communication
  • Transportation

Systems Design

Systems Design 
  • Move an object
  • Lift/Drop
  • Observe
  • Deliver

Thread and Fibre Design

Fibre Design 
  • Clothe (Fashion)
  • Protect (Furniture)
  • Perform (Rope)
  • Dampen (Acoustics)

Architectural Design

Architectural Design 
  • House
  • Store
  • Showcase


Design solutions can address singular or multiple functions. These can be referred to as primary and secondary functions. A function should be an extension of a product's original purpose. For example, a stapler's purpose is to keep documents 'organised'. The primary function of the stapler is to bind (or staple) the documents together. A secondary function of a stapler might be to 'store' staples or 'remove' staples from a notice board. 


Context is all about location and its effect on the design. Location is where a design will be placed, where it can be found or the places where it could be used.

A simple way to help understand context and its affect is to think of a table. Depending on where we locate tables we change their proportions and functions. For example, by placing a table in the context of a lounge transforms it into a coffee table or entertainment unit. By placing it in the foyer of a home transforms the table into a side board. By placing it in an office, we again change its proportions and functions into a desk.

Coffee Tables 
Entertainment Unit
A Desk

User Centred Design

End-user/s’ problems or needs identified to improve wellbeing and/or quality of life. In response to these needs, considerations include culture and religion, age, economic status, emotional and sensory appeal, universal design, social and physical needs, fashion and trends. Safety, accessibility, comfort, ergonomics and anthropometric data should also be considered.

Innovation and Creativity

Innovation requires a creative approach to develop new or improved solutions to unsolved problems and opportunities. This involves invention, improvement, modification, incremental progress, experimentation and pushing the boundaries. Opportunities are identified from research and development, end-user/s feedback, new ideas and knowledge, new materials and emerging technologies.

Visual Qualities

Relate to the product’s form, appearance and feel. Design elements include point, line, shape, form, texture, tone, colour, transparency, translucency and opacity. Natural forms, patterns and structures along with geometry and mathematics can also be employed to create aesthetic appeal. Design principles of balance, contrast, repetition, movement/rhythm, pattern, proportion, asymmetry/symmetry, negative/positive space and surface qualities are used to combine and arrange the design elements.

Tactile Qualities

The physical feel of an object. 


The combination of design elements and principles that make an object visually appealing to the viewer.


Involves the connection and interaction between three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental systems. Underpinning factors include: life cycle analysis/ assessment (LCA) and life cycle thinking, emotional attachment, carbon footprints, fair trade, embodied energy and water use, distribution (product miles) and use of renewable energy and resources.


Costing a product takes into account materials, labour and use of plant (equipment and machinery) but must give value to the end-user/s. Time management and material availability are critical issues to consider


Materials appropriate to this study are listed on page 12. Materials are selected for use based on their properties (their performance and behaviour both chemically and physically under certain conditions) and characteristics (visible features). These properties and characteristics include strength, durability, thermal resistance, hardness, density, rigidity, flexibility, corrosiveness and compatibility with other materials.


Conversion techniques (changing raw materials into usable forms) and production processes are reliant on and affected by available tools, equipment, machines, and expertise. Suitable and accurate methods are selected to perform the following: marking/ setting out, cutting/shaping/forming, joining/assembling/constructing, decorating/ embellishing/finishing.

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