Design is not a simple concept related solely to the outlook of a company. It’s part marketing, part art, and part psychology, and needs to be handled in a meticulous and well thought-out manner.
The problems most businesses meet is finding the perfect balance that will ultimately send their message, convey their values, and etch in consumers’ minds. The requirement to check all those three boxes at the same time often ends in an over complicated design. That ultimately proves to be a mistake, as there are several reasons why you should always go back to basics when designing for business.
Both company owners and designers themselves get caught up in the trap of creating something that’s unique and stands out from the crowd. They want something to please everyone. That includes a stunningly powerful logo and a beautiful website that will cause an upsurge of conversion rates. However, a Harvard study has proven that it’s practically impossible. What is “aesthetically pleasing” for some, is not for others. For example, the study’s participants who had a Ph.D. did not like an abundance of bright colors. Others, however, might enjoy them. There is no right formula to reach universal appeal.
That effort of making something truly unique that’s globally popular often ends with designers adding more and more elements. It becomes more complex, overloaded, and difficult to remember. However, “unique” should not mean “complicated.” It’s a pitfall most designers without experience fall into. In truth, though, it’s because creating something simple is more challenging than making something that is unique. It’s crucial to keep that in mind and remind yourself of the benefits of sticking to the basics.
Encourage Quick Associations
Going for simple designs does not necessarily have to take on the negative implication that you’re predictable. In fact, it has an important positive side to it because you are delivering what people are expecting. Even more, you are showing them something that will be quickly associated with your product. This type of prototypical approach can be entirely beneficial for business. It’s basically using the brain’s function of associating a certain image with everyday objects, color, people or concepts.
For example, when you hear the word “furniture,” what do you think of? Most people’s minds would go to a chair, armchair, or couch. If you were asked to associate a color with the word “boy,” you would probably think of blue. There are endless connections our brains make, and this concept has smoothly leaked into different areas, such as business, marketing, and social networks. It enhances the idea that it’s subconsciously easier for our minds to accept something that is simple and expected.
Google is an incredibly influential global business that is worldwide known for its great earnings and extensive reach. However, their design is not imposing, dominating, or intimidating in any way. The word “google” itself is quirky, funny, and a little out of the norm. That is why their design matches. The company themselves explained the use of colors. Beyond the primary blue, red, and yellow, they threw in green to bring back the idea that they don’t follow the rules. It’s expressive, simple, and perfectly matches the company’s name: Google.
Thus, it is, in fact, what people would expect a business’ design to look like with such a whimsical name. It matches their expectations, and the association is made in their mind much more quickly.
Make Use of Cognitive Fluency
It’s a simple yet powerful concept that you need to keep in mind. Cognitive fluency is essentially the idea that we instinctually prefer things that are easy to think about. At its core, it claims we like something because it’s familiar to us. It influences our decisions on what products we choose, what services we opt for, and what websites we return to. That is why it’s significant to keep this concept in mind when designing for business because the market is now crowded.
Customers will lean toward a design they are familiar with or, at the very least, follows a certain logic they have gotten used to. After so many marketing strategies have washed over the average consumer, our minds have created templates. Anything that goes outside of those templates is naturally inclined to be “less beautiful” or “more difficult to understand.” For example, the search bar on websites is commonly found in the upper right corner. It’s incredibly simple, but only by moving it to the left or bottom can be surprisingly off-putting for visitors. That’s because it’s outside of the norm and what the average user has gotten used to.
The mistake is when companies attempt to mess with a formula in a way that is not necessary. When you make a chance or a design choice, it’s critical that you think of its purpose and meaning. Ultimately, making unnecessary modifications to a standard and not keeping things simple can hurt your business. When you deviate, customers disengage.
However, this does not mean that you should copy others and be like everyone else. There are millions of websites out there that have stuck to a certain formula, and there is a reason behind that. It’s not because they are lazy and have copied each other’s layout. It’s because it’s complying with the expectations of the consumer. By sticking to basics, you are following the successful recipes that others before you created. The trick is to add your own ingredient so that you can make it unique without it being alien.
Recognize and Remember
What are you more likely to remember, a paragraph or a sentence? It’s a simple question with an obvious answer that can be easily used in design as well. The more complicated it is, the harder it is to remember. More importantly, fewer people will actually assign it to your brand. Something that is filled with information is much more likely to be rejected, ranging from logos to websites, or even to brochure design. The simpler it is, the easier it is for customers to recall.
They say that good jokes and Halloween costumes don’t need an explanation. The same goes for design. If it’s simple in concept and message, then it’s easier to recognize. Take McDonald’s for example. The golden, arched M has become iconic around the world. Its simplicity says all it needs to. If the purpose of a logo or a design is to make customers associate it with the company, then the easier the process is, the better. Businesses often have a clear-cut message they want to send. By going back to the basics when designing, all other “noise” is reduced.
Another Harvard study has shown that the average brain stores between five to nine “chunks of information” in our working memory. That’s basically how much details we can absorb in a matter of seconds when we focus our attention, ignore distractions, and helps our decision making. A simple design will be easier to digest in those precious seconds and focus customers’ attention.
Achieve Uniqueness Through Simplicity
It may seem contradictory, but it is, in fact, a highly valuable lesson when it comes to your competitors copying the design. The simpler it is, the trickier it becomes for them to counterfeit it. With complicated designs, they can change a few of the colors and remove some elements with ease. The alterations can be very subtle and avoid copyright infringement. They can potentially benefit from your business’ reputation or design’s recognition based on what it has built for itself.
Keep in mind that while it is possible the other way around, customers will have a tendency of remembering the simpler option. It’s to your advantage to go back to the basics and use core elements. The creative process is complicated enough, even without thinking of the possibility of others copying your hard work. However, as long as its minimalistic and meaningful, it will significantly lower the chances of that happening. Cut, remove, and slash elements in your design until every single bit in there is absolutely necessary.
Accessibility to All Media
The business world has expanded, technology has advanced, so design must follow suit and take note of all media channels available. Ranging from digital to print, there are numerous situations you must consider. By sticking to the basics and keeping it simple, all platforms are available. This includes web pages, print, stamps, signs, gifts, stickers, or textiles. It’s easier to avoid potential complications without a design that implies multiple complex elements. That will ultimately cut costs and avoid several issues that may appear in time.
A design that is simple is also scalable. It can be stamped on a billboard and printed on napkins without compromising any element and, in turn, its message. Meanwhile, an intricate design will gradually lose features when it’s shrunken down. That is an important fact to take into consideration during its early stages. As it’s scaled down, it will lose visibility and details that might be important. The integrity of the design will crumble, and its message or meaning will swiftly follow.
Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” However, the more modern iteration is the simple phrase of “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” (KISS), believed to have been coined by Kelly Johnson, the lead engineer of Lockheed Skunk Works, responsible for the S-71 spy plane and others. While it has two other forms, “Keep It Short and Simple” and “Keep It Simple and Straightforward”, the message remains the same.When it comes to design, whether brand, product, logo or website, simple is better. It needs to be something understood by everyone. This principle is available in everything, ranging from marketing to advertising, business, education and engineering.
Johnson described her idea for machinery used doing war. As an engineer of such products, she explained that the best design and functionality should be able to be fixed by the average person in the field with basic tools. If it broke down and required more than that, then the machine would become obsolete. There would be no time during war to stop and fix something that is ultimately complicated and requires an expert. The same principle applies here. It shouldn’t take an expert to understand your design. The entire audience should have no issues recognizing and acknowledging the meaning behind it.
The customer will not care too much about how clever the designer was. Their greatest concern will be on how they relate to it, how they can use it, or how it enriches their lives.
“Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” – Occam’s Razor. It’s an important principle that has been ironically simplified as well to “The simplest solution is most likely to be the right one.” Keep them engaged by keeping it simple.A design should not raise more questions than it answers.
Keep in mind that simplicity should not interfere with the enhancement of the service, product or goal. It should not compromise your business’ ability to send the right message or display its values. It’s meant to remove all unnecessary complex traits that could jeopardize the average user’s experience. Keeping it simple and basic does not mean dumbing it down. It’s about getting the most value out of the simplest designs.
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