Design psychology: what it is, how its used, and how it can influence us
Design psychology is behind many of the stimuli we are exposed to on a daily basis.
Brand logos and the way their services and products are advertised are not designed without following a pattern at all. Their visual presentation, in addition to being artistic, has an intention: to attract attention and convince the user that he needs it.
The psychology of design is a field that is closely related to marketing and is behind the success that a company can have when it comes to promoting its products. It is the art of, through shapes, colors and style, evoking feelings in the target audience to make them consider consuming a good or service.
We will now delve into this not so well known branch of psychology and how it is behind some subtle but very important changes that certain companies have undergone in recent years.
What is design psychology?
The name design psychology does not have much mystery, since it comes to say what it is: psychology applied to the field of design. But what is the relationship between design psychology and design psychology? what relationship can there be between psychology and the design of brands and objects? Really a lot, and in fact it could be said that design psychology has been enormously involved in making decisions as important as choosing what is going to be the letter of presentation of a brand, that is, its own logo.
Design psychology starts from an unquestionable reality: all objects with which we interact, even visually, evoke sensations and perceptions in us.. Colors, shapes, letter typography, object size and symmetry are aspects that greatly influence how we feel, something that is nothing new and that the world of fine arts is very clear about.
Transferring the power of visual beauty to the world of business and marketing, marketers and companies find in the psychology of design a powerful ally.. Knowing how to make a logo, design an object or promote one of their services in their advertising can exploit the sentimentality of the audience to convince them that they have a need. A good design can generate feelings, and those feelings are the ones that make someone have the need to buy something that, objectively, they did not need.
Application of this branch
Although the psychology of design does not necessarily apply exclusively to the field of marketing, it is clear that it intervenes in this field in a very significant way. It could be said that this branch is behind actions such as multimedia creation, illustration, graphic interface design, computer graphics, production of brand art and identity, among many others. We are not only talking about the design of the product, but also about how it is promoted.. Everything influences the decision making of the potential buyer, and therefore what is presented to him should encourage him to decide to buy in the end.
Other fields in which we could find the psychology of design are, for example, architecture.. The design of the house can influence how cold or warm it can be perceived by its visitors, something that must be considered according to the climatology of the place and the functionality of the building. Building a museum is not the same as building a block of apartments, since the former should have an attention-grabbing design to be visited, innovative but solemn, while houses should evoke homey warmth and security.
The list of examples in which the psychology of design is taken into account is very long, ranging from the design of books, squares, cars, airports and practically everything we can think of that has a functionality for the public. What we can comment more clearly are some of the phenomena that this branch takes into account, many of which are typical of Gestalt theory, since, like this branch, design psychology takes into account the following aspects of design psychology follows the idea that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Objects placed close together are seen as a group.
Objects that resemble each other are perceived as an object or that are part of the same category.
A figure that is perceived as a whole even when the object is not completely closed.
When passing from one object to another in a natural way.
5. Figure background
The figure is separated from the surrounding background.
Both naturally and culturally acquired, colors are linked to a specific register of emotions.. In a Western context the color yellow or gold is related to prestige, wealth and happiness, red to danger or impulsiveness, white to purity, blue and green to health and nature. The list is as extensive as you wish to make it.
When less is more
We have already mentioned on a couple of occasions that the psychology of design is very involved in the design of brand logos and now we are going to understand what is happening in this world. Have you noticed? Many companies have decided to change their business cards and it is something that has not gone unnoticed, since even the media have echoed it..
IKEA, Correos España, Warner Bros, Twitch, PBS, American Express, Facebook, Google, Microsoft... and many more companies have in common that their logos have become simpler and simpler. their logos have become simpler, more minimalist and succinct.Why? What's the point of simplifying? The psychology of design brings us the answer, an explanation that cannot be understood without contextualizing the phenomenon.
In the past, when a brand decided to rebrand, it made an integral change, introducing a redesign both in its style and in the shape and colors of its logo. This is not difficult to check, since it is enough to put "evolution" in the search engine of our search engine and choose any brand to get a Darwinian evolution-like sequence of how its logo has changed. After years and years of adding flowers and gaudy details to their logos, brands have decided, almost at the same time, to go in the opposite direction: less is more..
This change of trend, this ironically simple idea of taking away instead of putting is something that most human beings do not usually conceive and in fact a research carried out by Gabrielle Adams' group has explored it scientifically and they have explained what they found in their paper People systematically overlook subtractive changes (People systematically overlook subtractive changes).
The researchers presented their experimental subjects with a screen on which there was a grid with different shapes made of little green squares. These shapes were asymmetrical and the task was to make them as symmetrical as they wanted by shifting 9 of the squares. Most of the subjects, far from eliminating the squares that made the figure asymmetrical, preferred first to move the squares rather than eliminate them, despite the fact that this second option was the one that would have led them to satisfy the task more quickly.
It is curious how the brands took a long time to opt for this decision, a decision that has made them gain a lot of repercussion by becoming news for simplifying. Y not only affects the logo itself, but also the use of simpler, sans-serif, functional typefaces and straighter lines..
It must be said that the motivation behind many of these changes is directly related to the virtual world. Many brands are changing the design of their logos to make them more adjustable to all types of media, both on and offline, making them legible and recognizable whether you are looking at the brand on a tablet or if you find that same logo on a piece of paper.
Whatever the change is, it is clear that the motivation is to attract the customer's attention, to make them remember the logo better, and to make it more memorable.The shape, the colors, the typeface, the logo, the logo's logo, and the logo's logo are all important to the customer. Shape, colors, typography and size make an impression, an impression that is accompanied by emotions that guide us when using a service. Of course, the psychology of design is a field that, although little known, knows very well what the consumer's mind is like.
- Adams, G.S., Converse, B.A., Hales, A.H. et al (2021) People systematically overlook subtractive changes. Nature 592, 258-261 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03380-y
- Carbon, C. (2019). Psychology of Design. Design Science, 5, E26. doi:10.1017/dsj.2019.25.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)