The Psychology of Design: How to Design Collateral Effectively

The Psychology of Design: How to Design Collateral Effectively

Design is all about making intelligent choices. Each color, shape, line, typeface, text, and graphic you use directly influences your message (and your audience). It’s important to recognize that designers and marketers are experienced professionals trained to leverage these elements to effectively communicate and influence your audience while staying consistent with your brand.

Here are a few basic psychological principles that guide designers and marketers that you, too, should consider when working with them on your next project or campaign:

  • The Von Restorff Effect: Named after psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff, this effect, also known as the “isolation effect” suggests that something that stands out visually—like a sore thumb, as the saying goes— is more likely to be remembered. Here are some tips on designing something unusual and memorable:

When designing, you sometimes want your audience’s attention to be drawn to a certain spot or product even if there are other design elements at play. Create a helpful and meaningful contrast between your products or messaging with color, shape, positioning, font, or texture.

  • Color Association: We often associate certain colors with emotions; therefore, a great deal of time has been spent researching which colors we associate with different moods. For example:
  • Blue: Secure, orderly, calm, serene, honest, trustworthy, strong, caring
    Chase and CitiBank’s both use a blue color scheme to convey to its customers that they are strong and secure banks. Blue is the most common corporate color.
  • Red: Energy, love, excitement, action, boldness, passion, attention, intensity, love, warmth, comfort, sexuality
    Coca-Cola is a classic examples of how a company has used red in its branding to communicate how exciting and energetic it is as a product.
  • Green: Growth, organic, natural/nature, ecology, caring, fresh, earth, calming, tranquility
    Whole Foods uses green for obvious reasons, to highlight its connection to nature and freshness. Green also helps communicate the natural, organic feeling that Whole Foods strives to exude in its branding.
  • Black: Sophistication, luxury, seductive, formal, bold, authority, power, death, mourning, unhappiness
    Prada is synonymous with style, sophistication and luxury. It’s a natural fit that the brand’s font treatment is black.
  • The Science Behind Shapes: Studies have shown that people connect certain characteristics with certain shapes. Let’s take a look:
  • Circles, Ovals, and Ellipses: Community, unity, friendship, relationships love, femininity.
    AT&T’s circular logo helps communicate a universality feel, which makes perfect sense as a wireless service provider.
  • Squares and Triangles: Stability, strength, balance, professionalism, efficiency, power, masculinity.
    Microsoft uses triangles and squares in its logo to establish the positive feelings of stability and efficiency with the brand.
  • Diagonals: Dynamic, speed, progression
    Swiss Air is a good example of a dynamic logo, which uses the Swiss cross within two diagonals to represent a plane’s speed. Adidas is also a great example of the use of diagonals in a logo, which again demonstrates speed.
  • Vertical Lines: Masculinity, strength, aggression.
    Cisco uses vertical lines to demonstrate strength and support. The lines create an outline of the Golden Gate bridge, apropos for this San Francisco-based company.
  • Horizontal Lines: Community, tranquility, calmness.
    The Human Rights Campaign is a perfect example, communicating community-building, peace, and equality.
  • Dual-Coding Theory: As we’ve mentioned before, our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster. Now let’s make that communication strategy even stronger: Dual-coding is the idea that visual and verbal cues can help the brain recall those ideas faster. When designing, this means illustrating ideas as much as possible while still using verbal messages to expound on those ideas.