The Psychology of Design

BY:
James Murphy

Ah, the psychology of design. This is always a good subject to discuss as it’s one that brings a lot of opinion, comment and scrutiny. How does psychology affect design? The colours that correspond to feelings, the shapes that mean different things, the fonts we subconsciously like… Creatives and designers constantly have to use the power of psychology to interact with audiences thus improve the impact of their work. Design is sometimes seen as ‘just art’. But surely there’s more depth to it? 

It’s always hard to quantify how long our attention spans are. And due to the digital age, and being unable to escape the never-ending barrage of ads we receive from the moment we wake up to the second we drop off, the importance of creating something that will not just be acknowledged but also remembered is very important. After all, apparently goldfish have a longer attention span than humans now thanks to phones. 

So, how do we create something memorable?

Colour is integral in all of our everyday lives, so it’s easy to see how it would play a big part in the design process. There have been a number of studies about what each colour means, however as time moves on colour has become a bit more of a grey area (sorry).

Colour palette design tool - paint sample cards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst it might have been acceptable before to assume green would be a colour associated with nature and growth, and blue as calming, honest and trustworthy, colours can now mean totally different things due to brand association, as well as personal preferences. Everyone’s experiences and preferences are different, so it’s more about how colours are used and mixed as opposed to just relying on the colours. There needs to be a context, a reason and a purpose.

All shapes and sizes…

Shapes and how they’re used within the wider design world are a complex subject. The use of shapes has evolved from geometric shapes which are traditional such as squares, rectangles and triangles, into a more diverse space now occupied by organic shapes which usually have flowing lines and usually resemble objects related to nature. When we were given the brief of helping Cofton Holidays with their branding, we used a variety of contrasting shapes and colours to represent it’s obvious location in the countryside by the sea in Devon with the logo. 

AB film project - Cofton Holidays logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a more advanced level, it’s worth noting how the brain automatically organises information into a more understandable, orderly and symmetrical order. This is worth understanding when considering the integration of shapes within design and how certain shapes could correlate to certain things.

Typography 

Typography is an art form within itself. The art of typography, combined with the science of psychology makes for interesting reading as the study of typography is fairly modern compared to colours and shapes. Typography changes how we react to things and how we read and consume content. Think of how you’re reading this blog, right now. Sometimes you’re skipping parts and sometimes you’re pausing for extra focus. When we read, our eyes follow a natural pattern called a scan path. This path is built up into scans (saccades) and pauses (fixations).

Typography design - the reading process diagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s easy to see how this can affect how effective our work can be. Now with the wealth of resources we have available to us, such as heat mapping technology we can see where users are dropping off on sites and test certain designs in terms of how well they are received. It would be detrimental not to use this information to contribute to future designs.

 

 

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Author: James Murphy

James joined AB as our Digital Marketing Intern... and we just couldn't let him go. Fresh out of University and hungry to learn, over his three month internship he worked across a range of accounts, advising clients on their social media strategy, as well as improving our own Digital Marketing output. James is an avid Torquay United fan... for his sins and loves spicy food.

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