Kollective Learning Ep 03 : Who, What, Where, Why?

General / 25 January 2018

Hello there!

Today's post will cover the topic of designing with intent; using a rendition of the tried and true formula of Who, What, and Where. But- we will be adding on an additional WHY, and i will try to show how much that affects your designs.

The Who What Where (WWW) system is a great series of questions to ask before embarking on your design.

Here are some ways of how they are broken down to


WHO refers to establishing the current designs origin and appearance. 

  • - Age
  • - personality
  • - origin
  • - maker


WHAT refers to the usage or function of the design

  • - occupation
  • - function
  • - purpose


WHERE refers to the curent location of the design

  • - position
  • - geography
  • - climate
  • - environment

The Who category best decribes characters; The What category best describes machinery; and the Where category best describes locations.

However, I strongly believe that good designs should have all categories fleshed out well- for example a Trash planet Recycling Robot whos curious and loves to watch soap operas (Wall-E) would be a great character description despite being a machine.

Now these Three categories are sufficient to start on creating an interesting design- but lets talk about the fouth category; the WHY factor.


WHY refers to the goal and purpose of the design- it's on everyone's mind that an artists goal is to create an appealing image; but the Why factor needs to be bigger than that. The Why factor looks into the broader scope of the project, from it's targeted market appeal, to it's story arc and needs.

for example- the Why category focuses on points like these

  • - how does your design fit the needs of the story emotionally?

Beyond occupation or personality; asking yourself visually- how complicated or simple should the costume be; or how vibrant or dull a design should be based on what emotional story arc the design is planning to service.

  • - what do you want your audiences to feel?

You can generate a strong response from creating design outlooks that either relate or alienate your expected audience. Depending on what is your goal for the project- both are suitable strategies.

  • - what emotion is your design trying to reflect on?

This being very similar to Episode 2 of the Kollective Learning blog; where we talked about how all designs can be boiled down to a core emotion or response. Fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, empathy and more.


In this example- I asked the classroom for a Who, What, Where response. The decription that we came up with was the following.

A stoic woman astronaut who struggles to pay rent repairs spaceships at a Meteorite gas station.

Who - A stoic woman astronaut who struggles to pay rent

What -  repairs spaceships

Where -  at a Meteorite gas station.

In this class demo- i did two sketches to explore this design but with two seperate WHY factors.

WHY factor 1 - was to portray the struggle and difficulty of coping with challenges

WHY factor 2 - was to portray the hope and optimism in people that are struggling.

Outcome 1

The Astronaut suit was designed to be much bulkier, heavier and here general gesture slumps forward. Her equipment blocks her view and hinders her movement. The emotive keywords were - Restrained, Tied down, Heavy

Outcome 2

The astronaut suit is still clunky- but much more form fitting in certain places. Her visor flips up- showing that she chooses to view the world clearly. Her gesture is more upright and optimistic.

Comparing both Outcomes

So in drawing terms- The Who, What and Where are similar

  • - both are wearing some kind of astronaur suit
  • - both have a welding visor and mechanical tool arm to suggest repairing
  • - both are female and of similar age

But due to the Why differences- the outcomes of the designs vary substantially. This is becuase the intention and emotional outreach was a different goal. Design 1 was made to evoke a sadder outlook at the character and Design 2 was made to evoke a more optimistic approach.

There are some unique design elements that help push that idea further too

  • - Design 1 has criss crossing straps to look like restraints, and boots that lock into the ground when she does repair work
  • - Design 2 has a visor that is inspired by a race car helmet- and wheels on her boots to make her move quicker during repairs.

This is a very fun way of looking at design; and i would recommend focusing more on the big WHYs. The whys to me are the big and bold What if questions- that are meant to provoke and inspire.

Design a tank that is the Ferrari of tanks

Design an optimistic Undertaker

Design a gym for lazy people

Thank you so much for taking your time to read this! 

I apologize in advance for the grammar errors and sentence structures. A side goal for me via this blog post was to improve on my writing abilities by writing more. I do hope you have learnt something from this. Happy creating.