Psychology Principles to Apply for Game-Changing Designs

Design is one of the primary ways we present and communicate our brands, events, and ideas to customers. That said, it makes sense to learn how our target market thinks and behaves in order create designs that they can identify with or that can influence their actions.

That food companies and restaurants often incorporate the color red into their logo, for example, says that the choice of color is intentional. This springs back to the psychology of color, which explains how red increases the level of appetite in viewers.

There are many more principles of psychology that make a huge impact when applied to designs. Here, we pick the best ones that you can experiment with and integrate into your brand’s visual materials and content.

The Psychology of Color

There’s so much more to a design than a good understanding of the color wheel and choosing which colors go with which. Striking designs evoke particular emotions of people, and to achieve that, it’s essential to have a grasp of color psychology.

  • Yellow

Optimism, Warmth, Clarity, Energy, Joy, Playful, Confidence

Brands: McDonald’s, Shell, Nikon, DHL, Ferrari, Snapchat

  • Orange

Friendly, Bold, Youthful, Extroversion, Motivation, Impulse

Brands: Mastercard, Bitly, Nickelodeon, Payless, Blogspot

  • Red

Excitement, Passion, Youth, Boldness, Action, Power, Urgency

Brands: Coca-Cola, Lay’s, Kellogg’s, Nintendo, CNN, Target

  • Pink

Sincerity, Compassion, Sweetness, Femininity, Nurture, Sensitivity, Love

Brands: Barbie, Victoria’s Secret, Cosmopolitan, Benefit Cosmetics, Dunkin Donuts

  • Purple

Imaginative, Creative, Nostalgia, Courage, Fantasy, Glamor, Wealth

Brands: Cadbury, Hallmark, Yahoo!, Milka

  • Blue

Trustworthiness, Intelligence, Loyalty, Calmness, Security, Honesty

Brands: Dell, Ford, WordPress, Facebook, IBM, PFizer

  • Green

Peaceful, Freshness, Growth, Safety, Health, Balance, Harmony

Brands: Starbucks, Lacoste, Tic Tac, Tropicana, Whole Foods, Animal Planet

  • Black

Sophistication, Luxury, Authority, Formality, Seduction, Importance

Brands: Chanel, Prada, Audi, Dolce and Gabbana, Playboy

Facial Recognition

People are naturally attracted to faces. In fact we have a tendency to see patterns of a face on an object or place where there isn’t any, at all, like the craters of the moon or the barks of trees.

So it doesn’t take much to understand that adding faces to your brand’s assets, like your website or your pamphlet, boosts people’s trust in your brand. In fact, this has been revealed in several studies.

There are a couple of ways you can leverage facial recognition in your designs (on top of just slapping them on). You can command your viewers to feel particular emotions by choosing a face that conveys that emotionwhether it be happiness, anger, sadness, surprise, fear, or disgust.

Source: Ads of the World

You can also control viewer’s attention with faces that are specifically turned to a particular directioneyes can be alternatives for arrows!

Source: Quora

Faces are a great way for your adverts or materials to get a message across despite language barriers.

Von Restorff Effect

The starting line of an Apple ad “Here’s to the crazy ones,” resonates well with the Von Restorff Effect. Otherwise known as the isolation effect, the Von Restorff effect says that the more unique something is, the easier it will be recognized and remembered.

This is especially true when said unique object is thrown in the middle of multiple objects that are homogeneous or similar. See how that plays out in this image of smileys—which we’re sure you have encountered across social media or websites before.

Source: Metro Cebu


Source: Mythical Computer Blog

Not only are unique elements or objects easier to remember, they also draw attention faster than any other parts of your design.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s popular pyramid of needsin which Maslow outlines the order of necessities  people need to meet before achieving self-actualizationhas often been utilized in marketing and advertising.

Source: Just Creative

Effective ads and promotions often revolve around benefits. But messages are magnified when ads start to play off of people’s needs. After all, what would motivate one to buy a product more than when it’s a necessity for our physical, emotional, and mental well-being?

So when designing, build up on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Map out your target market’s behavior and consumption patternsthen place your target in the pyramid. Think about how your design can hook them into needing the product and service in their lives to complete the current level of the pyramid they’re in.

Hick’s Law

Ever had to take a while ordering food at a restaurant because of the abundant number of dishes to choose from? Hick’s Law refers to the time it took you to make a decision.

Thing is that sometimes, the decision-making process can take too long or involve too many options that you may end up not having a good experience or worse, not making a decision at all.

So how do you apply Hick’s Law as a designer? If you’re making a website, for example, try to incorporate only the functionalities that people need the  most. Keep your navigation panel neat and create drop-down menus so that the options are more organized. This inevitably affects the visitor’s user experience with your website.

Take a look at Show Pony Fashion’s navigation menu. Hovering over the “Clothes” tab reveals a drop-down menu of different types of clothes, distributed into their respective categories.

The more simplified and organized you are when guiding your customer to make a choice, the longer and likelier the customer will stick around.

The key is to not overwhelm your customer with so many options or calls-to-action, lest the customer leave your website or ignore your design completely.

Fitt’s Law

Defined by Paul Fitts in 1954, Fitt’s Law is a model that “can accurately predict the amount of time taken to move to and select a target.”

In designer lingo, it really just says that the size of the clickable area directly relates to the likelihood of people clicking on that area.

Source: Conversion UpLift

Let’s take your navigation menu as an example. If the tabs are small or only the text is clickable, the more effort your website visitors have to make to click on the tab. And as you may well know by now, we’re all about making the experience easy for visitors.

You can also use the Fitt’s Law in reverse—in that any exit or delete options can be turned into smaller buttons.

To Sum It Up

Psychology is a huge component of marketing. It makes things like communication and decision-making much easier for customers to do. As designers, we play a crucial part in making their understanding and experience of brand visuals much more effective. With well-executed designs, we can direct our target market into making the action we want them to make. So take the time to master and incorporate these psychology principles into the materials you create.