Psychology Principles to Use In Design
Did you know that psychology is everywhere in design, because psychology has helped us understand that red is the choice colour for restaurant logos and marketing—because it stimulates our appetite. There are psychology principles to use in design that can help your design reach your target audience quicker and easier.
You can’t ignore psychology since principles of the human mind influence how people react and interact with designs.
Have a read of the below psychology principles that can help you incorporate into your design practice.
The Von Restorff Effect
The Von Restorff effect tells us that the more out there an element is, the more it will stand out and be remembered. In branding world we call it ‘differentiation’.
The theory was tested by Hedwig von Restorff around 1933. She made a bunch of subjects look at a list of similar items. If the item was isolated (i.e. highlighted) it was easier for the individual to remember the item over others.
This same principle can be applied to design. The obvious is that if you want to draw attention to something, you isolate it, such as through colour, size, spacing, etc.
Because people focus more on the isolated item, they remember less about the others. Keep the inverse in mind when considering whether or not to highlight an item. Do you want your customers to remember the one thing, and only that one thing? Don’t highlight that particular item if the other items are equally important and you want everything remembered.
Psychology in Color
A good designer should have a clear understanding of colour and how it relates to a design. Some new designers tend to ignore how colours affect the mind, instead choosing to design with colours they like themselves. Are you considering how your design influences your audience?
Colours can influence emotions. Adobe lists colours and their corresponding emotions, the positive ones as follows:
- Black: sophistication and power
- White: cleanliness, sophistication, virtue
- Yellow: happiness, optimism,
- Red: power, courage, strength; can also stimulate appetite
- Green: sustainability growth, balance
- Blue: calmness, peace, trust, safety
- Yellow: optimism, happiness
- Purple: luxury, royalty, spiritual awareness
- Orange: friendliness, comfort and food
- Pink: tranquility, femininity, sexuality
Emotions people associate with colour can change depending on cultural and/or religious backgrounds. The above list refers to our culture.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Did you study Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in high school or college? If not, here’s what it is:
The pyramid was designed to show how one must take steps to reach self-actualisation. Before a person can feel loved they must have their physiological and safety needs met first.
How does this apply outside the psychology classroom? Marketers and graphic designers can use Hierarchy of Needs in advertising and public relations.
Try this, when designing any marketing material, use the theory when developing a buyers persona. Think about where your client’s target audience is in the above pyramid. How can your design motivate them to the next stage of the pyramid?
Hick’s Law relates to how long it takes for someone to make a decision. If someone has more choices to choose, it takes them longer to decide. In many cases, it takes them so long that they’ll decide to make no decision because the burden of deciding has become too stressful and hard.
You can incorporate this concept into design also. For example, say you’re designing a website for a client, and you want to keep your top menu panel as simple as possible with just a few options to choose, you can group the pages into drop-down menus so it’s easier for a web visitor to categorise their options which in turn makes it a quicker decision.
This also is what we do with a ‘call-to-action’. When designing a poster, you don’t want to tell users to do many different things. You want a call to attention. For example, your poster may focus on collecting donations with a call-to-action of “Donate Now – Call This Number.” The secondary call-to-action could a QR code that leads to your client’s social media page.
Using faces into your design is one of the most effective techniques, it pulls someone right into your design. We are all drawn to faces—so much that we see faces where there aren’t any. Case studies show that when faces are added to websites, it boosts conversions.
This idea can be applied in many ways.
You can use faces to connect with your audience. Just put a face on your design, I bet you you’re more likely to catch a viewer’s eye.
You can also direct their attention based on which way your model’s face and eyes are facing. Eye-tracking studies show that people follow other people’s gazes much like they follow arrows.
You can use a face to convey lost of emotion. There are a number of facial expressions:
Utilising this can immediately set the tone for your design, as well as communicate across language barriers.
Fitt’s Law is a scientific law that’s used to describe computer-human interaction. It says that “the time required to move to a target is a function of the target size and distance to the target.”
You can use this same principle in web design. For example the larger a clickable area is, the more likely it is to get clicked on.
When you design a web page, you make the navigation menu items clickable. But what is the area of the clickable link? Will only the words link to the target URL, or will the tabs themselves be clickable?
You can also design with the opposite in mind. Links that you don’t want to be clicked on often such as delete or cancel buttons—should have small clickable areas.
Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Even though this is more of a philosophical idea than a law of design, it still can easily be applied to design. First time designers usually create complicated designs with elements that are unnecessary to show how creative they are. But you often find that these designs are not user-friendly.
This relates back to Hick’s law. If you’re trying to cram too much into a poster instead of going for the simplest solution, people will just not read it. The design becomes overwhelming and people will quickly abandon it.
As you can see psychology can play a huge role in how we go about our day-to-day lives, and if you’re a designer, it’s important to pay extra attention to those psychology principles to help create artwork that translates to your audience, which converts for your clients.