Us humans are visual creatures. Yes, we all have our own tastes (and the lucky ones have that thing we call style to go with it), but when you get deep down into the nitty-gritty which is visual language there are common denominators that embody visual attraction and they need to be considered regardless of your audience.
Adopting these 8 key principles of visual design excellence will see you producing a visual language for your brand that resonates with humans far and wide. In this article, we refer to any design or presentation you create as a touchpoint. It’s a point of contact between your brand and your audience. It could be anything from your logo or landing page through to letterheads and everything in between. It expresses your story and when it’s done right your brands entire ethos.
There is no doubt colour effects audience psychology and persuasion at an unconscious level. It can be powerful and it is defiantly a truly fascinating element of evolutionary human behaviour.
There is a lot of material out there that attempts to universally link certain colours to certain emotions. Like yellow is clarity and warmth or blue invokes dependability and strength. These blanket claims fail to take individuality into account. It is things like upbringing, experience, culture and even gender that have the heaviest impact on how certain colours affect any given individual. But…that’s not to say there aren’t some common themes that you can use to your advantage when picking colours.
Research has shown that it’s much more about the way consumers react to colours and the brand that they are attached to than the actual colour itself. So when the likes of Caterpillar and Komatsu paint their earthmoving machines yellow this just makes sense and if they released the sparkly purple and pink edition of the D12 Bulldozer, we’re going to hazard a guess and predict some pretty ordinary sales figures on that bad boy. So what we’re saying here is, it’s much more the image and vibe that you create with colour in conjunction with the bulldozer, logo, infographic or whatever it is that has the big effect.
We see typography everywhere. There are literally thousands upon thousands of font types and styles that can either attract a reader or push them away. It’s an often overlooked, but essential part of a visual language. It can change the entire feel of your brand’s touchpoints and when it’s used correctly it can help to convey your ethos and message. It can set the tone for the reader before they even begin.
Your audience should be able to easily comprehend what you are trying to say by using clean and easy to read fonts. Equally important and useful is the information hierarchy you can create by emphasising important points, allowing your audience to follow along or skim through information more easily. It also makes your brand recognisable. Uniformity and harmony across your typography not only synchronises your brand but makes it much easier for your audience to identify with.
Breath in….and out. Now let your designs do the same and always keep proximity in mind. The best user interfaces incorporate plenty of “white space”. You’re going to push people away with lots of visual noise. Consistency and repetition are also items that people find visually appealing. We’ve all got a little bit of that inner OCD person getting a bit weird about these things.
When things are aligned correctly, elements flow and bring balance. It’s all about the way these elements correspond to each other within their confines. When you get it right you don’t even notice it. When it’s wrong it just looks disjointed and strange.
The most important part of designing navigation is making sure everything is incredibly clear. It should be blatantly obvious why that button is there and what happens when you press it, why that dropdown menu is under that link and where it’s going to take you.
Secondly, it’s prioritising elements relative to their importance to the user’s goals. Think about your Facebook account and your settings or my account buttons/tabs. They’re a secondary function to the actual everyday Facebooking so they are far less prominent. Contrast is also key here. Certain functions need more contrast to their surrounds so they can be more visible. We are wired to notice contrast. When you scroll through the menu on your phone you aren’t looking for “f” to open Facebook. You’re looking for a blue and white square.
Generally speaking, texture refers to the surface quality of an object and there’s a tactile sensation that can be attached to it but in graphic design, it refers to visual elements and creates a visual illusion of texture. Incorporating texture is another powerful technique that can bring any kind of presentation to life.
Mother nature is the undisputed texture champion and inspiration can be drawn from her across the living world. Implementing organic elements that mimic nature can infuse depth, vividness and warmth. We need to look to contrast to achieve this. Inverting different colours, hues, tones, backgrounds and foregrounds against each other in layers can create beautiful depth. You can also add a broad range of artificial or man-made patterns and objects. Textiles, artificial geodes and surfaces can all be created, and results are only limited by the bounds of your imagination so whether you’re using them as a focal point or to emphasise space and difference from component to component, using this technique should always be your friend.
Purely on a branding level, lack of differentiation waters down your brand and it’s confusing at best, let alone looking at the designs that are inherently attached to your brand. People build immunity to your attempts to capture their attention.
When your audience interacts with a touchpoint, they’re subconsciously looking at factors that help them classify you mentally. Are these guys a useful commodity? Are they different? How are they different and how is this going to relate to me and my problem.
Highlighting your uniqueness through your touchpoints while maintaining some kind of balance will show clear and meaningful differentiation in the minds of your audiences. Using visuals to highlight your brand’s position as unique needs to be incredibly intuitive and incorporated in a way that embodies a deeper understanding of what your brand really does. This being said, it’s so much more than just creating pretty visuals. Making things unique, fresh, authentic and consistent across all touchpoints will have a positive influence or your audience.
We want to make this very clear – NEVER cut corners on photographed imagery. Across all the other elements there are places where it’s possible to cut some corners and still produce a great result but sub-par imagery is a false economy and it’s ALWAYS a terrible decision for your brand’s communications. Images are what your audience will look at first and to put the pressure on, even more, images are stored in the human brain for much longer than text. It suffices to say that firsts impressions really count for extra when it comes to images and they can break a business.
Show consistency across your imagery feel with a loose theme. This can be done quite cleverly with colours, tones and hues or image types. The idea is to make your audience feel something when they see your imagery and then through repeated exposure, build some trust over time.
Balance is about the intelligent application of all the other elements we’ve discussed above. It’s about distributing them in a way that shows stability and structure.
There are many ways to use balance. Elements can be placed to create symmetrical balance, either rotationally to show dynamic action, through reflectional symmetry to create a mirror image, or through transitional symmetry to create repetition.
Horizontal balance is generally referred to when visual information such as text is being incorporated into the presentation. For instance, culturally humans have a tendency to read left to right so incorporating text, in the same way, is great for a conservative audience and will keep things feeling simple and restrained.
Asymmetrical balance is the most difficult to pull off but creates more dynamic relationships between elements and a more unique feel by unequally distributing the visual weight while maintaining harmony.
Analysing and incorporating all of these wonderful elements every time you create any touchpoint for your brand will help you achieve the best possible look while giving your user the experience they deserve and need to make their decisions, time and time again.