How do people react to design? Knowing this is one of the key parts of successful marketing and communication. Psychology is central to ensuring design is effective because it provides the neuroscientic insights necessary to working out what sort of responses visual stimuli will elicit.
Design has a purpose. Applying psychology to design helps guide that purpose.
Reaction and Resonance
Good design and applying it in practical terms is about understanding people’s behaviour, attitudes, motivations and aspirations.
Brands and businesses need to understand how their audiences and customers will react to what they transmit to them or sell them. People have limited attention spans, so getting the right reaction, or indeed any reaction, is critical.
Designers must consider the principle of cognitive load. This is how long it takes someone to process a task. In other words, if something looks like it’s going to involve too much effort to digest and understand, it won’t resonate with its audience. Good design needs to reduce this mental effort, making it easier for people to take the desired action, whether this is buying something or taking some other action.
This can come down to design basics such as the choice of font and colours. For example, a sans serif font is easier to read than a serif font. Similarly, certain colours bring about specific reactions, such as blue, which evokes calmness, red which for passion or aggression, or yellow for happiness.
Design is a language, but it does not always follow that reactions to it will be consciously rational. Modern psychology suggests that much of our behaviour is determined by deep-rooted survival instincts, reacting faster than conscious thought. In design this can result in visceral reactions – if a design appeals to deep-rooted instincts around threat, or survival, or sex, it can powerfully tap into the visceral.
Brand language can generate an immediate sense of connection from a customer, whereby instinctive thinking, and reaction, is being processed on a non-conscious level.
Patterns, Rationality and Recognition
When customers think about their reasons for buying a brand and what they think of it, this is cognitive reasoning. People find their own meanings in what they see, which can be a challenge for designers. However, this pattern recognition provides a useful opportunity for designers to help trigger cognitive associations on the part of their audience.
It influences how familiar something can feel, which in turn can make it more attractive to users or consumers. This still plays on the audience’s feelings and responses but appeals to a rational response, rather than a more instinctive, visceral reaction.
When it comes to applying the principles of psychology design there is no single solution, and good design must be led by the objective of the client’s brief to be effective. But, depending on the brief, having a clear understanding of how a design will work on its intended audience’s reactions, will help ensure its success.
Reform Creative is a Manchester-based creative design agency covering a wide range of marketing communications. We know which buttons to press to gain a reaction from your audience and make them buy from you or buy into you. Contact us today to find out more about how design can help build your brand.