Psychology-Driven Brand Design. Creating and Refining Remarkable Brand Identities.

The Role of Psychology in Design

Table of Contents

This morning I woke up angry. Like, really angry. Why? I had dreamt that I’d just bought a small plate of breakfast food for an exorbitant price ($19 to be exact), only to have a strange man run by and snatch the food off my plate, leaving me with a single slice of bacon. In my dream I went on a full-on rampage, yelling at some guy who I thought took it (who denied it and called me crazy). Then, blinded with rage, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “I paid 19 dollars for a lousy piece of bacon?!” (then I took a bite) “AND COLD BACON AT THAT!!”  And that is the precise moment in time when I woke up, heart pounding and adrenaline rushing.

So…. weird, right? Reflecting on where on earth THAT came from, I realized…

  1. The previous night, we’d ordered dinner, and I had a fleeting thought that “this was out of budget.” ==> dreamland translation: $19 for tiny plate of food.
  2. A few days ago I had watched a TV show featuring a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder who had a “break” and was completely freaking out on people. ==> dreamland translation: man who called me crazy after I went off on him.
  3. I’d recently had a brief exchange with old high school friend on Facebook. ==> dreamland translation: she showed up in my dream.
  4. Earlier in the week, I was in the process of drafting blog posts about protecting intellectual property ==> dreamland translation: a thief stealing from me.
  5. I don’t know where the bacon came from.  ==> dreamland translation: why NOT bacon?

Somehow, in my deepest of sleep, all of these non-related experiences co-mingled into a dream that made me wake up angry enough to fight someone. (Good thing my husband was already out of bed!)

Why do I share this with you? Not so that you’ll be concerned about my mental well-being. 🙂 But because it’s a testament to the complexity of the computers inside our heads. I’m amazed at how our brains work. I’m intrigued by it. And that’s a great quality for a graphic / web designer to have. Psychology should actually inform most of what we (designers) do. Once you get past the skills and creativity, you have to put that to work in a way that will be effective. How do we know what will be effective? Well, we don’t — not always and not exactly. But there are psychological principles that can help generally predict how people will react due to what we know — and what we can measure — about how our brains process information. Whether it’s conversion optimization of a website, deciding a color scheme for a poster, determining how many options to display on your e-commerce homepage, selecting the best stock photo for your rack card, or designing with enough white space, psychology always comes into play.

I will flesh this out a bit more in future posts.  In the meantime, my crazy dream should remind you of two things:

  1. Not everything we do makes sense (bacon, anyone?). 
    While we like to believe we are rational creatures, we are largely driven by emotion, deeply ingrained impulses, social cues, and stuff swimming in our subconscious. Side note: There is a danger for designers, advertisers, marketers to try to use this knowledge to coerce and manipulate unethically. We designers have a lot of power — the power to influence, to guide actions, to form impressions, to compel people to do something. We must use it wisely and ethically.
  2. Our brains strive to make order out of disorder. 
    To make sense of the chaos, we look to Gestalt principles, which attempt to explain the way our brains process everything that’s thrown at it.  For example, when objects are in close proximity, the brain decides they are part of a group, whether or not they’re actually related. When we are overloaded with stimuli, the brain must choose what to focus on. In design, this is why we find that simple is usually better (did you know that white space is your friend?).

There is so much more that I can touch on — psychology is an integral part of the design process and deserves to be explored further. So… more to come! For now, I’m going to go make myself breakfast.

(Yes, with bacon.)

🙂

Nyla Smith

Nyla Smith

Nyla is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 15 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.

More Like This...

“T” is for Typo: Why Good Grammar is Good for Business

Possibly the most expensive typo in history was made by NASA in 1962. The omission of a single hyphen in a mathematical calculation resulted in the destruction of Mariner 1 mere minutes after launch and cost $80 million. While your typos may not cause rockets to explode midair, they could keep your profits from skyrocketing.

Read More »

“M” is for: Monochromatic (One is the Loveliest Color)

It was September of 1965 when the color television revolution changed the world. Programming previously watched in shades of gray was now bursting in full color for all to see! It’s understandable that we are drawn to color; we equate it with life and vibrancy. So when I tell you that monochromatic has merits, don’t tune me out just yet!

Read More »

“O” is for Offset Printing

I remember quite distinctly a time back in 2004, when this thing called ‘digital printing’ was scoffed at by ‘real’ designers. It was cheap and produced inferior results as compared to traditional offset printing. Well now it’s almost 2016 and technology has come a long way. Is offset printing still the best way to print?

Read More »