The Balance Between Data and Instinct
When I first started writing this guest post, I decided I was going to write about the proliferation of platforms. How they've made the business of running a small creative studio incredibly efficient and cost-effective. Especially the ones we use here at Percolate. But it quickly turned into a blatant pitch for Team and other platforms. So, after some deliberation I am moving in a different direction, which hopefully will provide a unique perspective on design.
In our digital world, there's a lot of jargon being thrown around. At the moment, everybody is talking about "responsive" or melding "UX and UI" or the re-emergence if you will, of "flat" design. As the Creative Director of a small studio, I can sometimes focus on the design aspect of things a little too much, getting caught up in those buzzwords. I begin to lose sight of the true goal and purpose of design.
At Percolate, we do a variety of creative "stuff", but what is the most important? In pure design terms what are we trying to achieve? Is it the user interface coming together in harmony with the user experience? Is it the branding and pop that we can give a business? Is it us ushering clients gently into the modern age with a clean, responsive website. Sometimes it can be hard to pin down exactly what the goal is. Endless talk about metrics and figuring out ROI. These are useless if built on unclear goals. What's really behind the metrics and analytics? What makes one piece of design more effective than the another? The answer lies in psychology - behavioral psychology to be precise.
Everything we do is a function of behavior. From clicking on a perfectly placed button at the top of a page (people have devoted articles to CTA copy, which even further demonstrates my point), to calling that billboard phone number. In their purest form, these are just trivial behaviors, the result of how the brain processes visual stimuli and information. A stimulus is presented, and depending on how the brain interprets that stimuli, the person will then react a certain way. Say the wrong thing and the user will bounce right away. Bombard them with too much information; you'll get the same result.
What the metrics and analytics are showing is the user's behavior and the sub-conscious thought process behind it. Every user is different, and every user will behave differently. It is impossible to design something - whether it be a website, logo or advertisement - that is going to appeal to everyone. It is more realistic to design something for a specific demographic, and this is what we all attempt to do.
Good design should take into account the underlying psychology behind the end-user. It should be intuitive, visually appealing, non-confrontational, attention-grabbing and most importantly; designed specifically for the people who you are targeting. If done correctly it should connect and resonate with them on a deeper psychological level. These goals seem like common sense because this is what designers naturally do. That's what makes a good designer. It's what makes a good photographer or video editor. They have a natural eye for their chosen discipline, an instinct for what drives people.
With an overabundance of data, it's easy for clients to underestimate intuition, common sense and natural ability. It can be difficult to explain your solution is going to work because your gut tells you it will. They need infographics and data as reassurance. Require definitive, quantitative data showing the ROI and conversion rates. Don't get me wrong, we are constantly monitoring these analytics. But the moment we can't recognize good visual design by channeling our instinct and experience; is the moment that we lose our intrinsic value.
Every design choice doesn't need a page long explanation or months of data. Sometimes we do things solely based on aesthetics; because it simply looks good. There is nothing wrong with this. We use the knowledge we have acquired with a confidence that results will come. There's always a time and a place to back up what we do with research and statistics. What we do provide to clients is expertise. Time-served after years of figuring out what makes people tick; truly understanding the psychology behind building robust and immersive experiences. As visual designers, that is our value proposition, and we should never lose it.
Connor Hays is an avid Team user and the Creative Director of Percolate Creative, a small creative studio located in The Heartland - Wichita, KS. You can find Connor on Twitter @imightbeconhays and Medium @imightbeconhays. You can find Percolate online at percolatecreative.co and on Twitter @letitpercolate.
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