…or put another way, The Exposure Effect. In short, the effect says that people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.
The exposure effect has been demonstrated with words, paintings, faces, shapes and sounds. Have you ever been introduced to a song and been told it’s a grower?
In studies of interpersonal attraction, the more often a person is seen by someone, the more pleasing and likeable that person appears to be. And that’s exactly the same with brands:
The first time you see a new company or brand, it’s likely you’ll make an instant opinion of it, good or bad. The next time you encounter it, it’s likely that you’ll like it a bit more.
The exposure effect is a strong argument for great and encompassing branding. If potential customers are able to interact with your brand across many different avenues (everything from business cards, your web design, advertising and social media), and if each time they do your brand looks and acts the best way it can, then that potential customer turns into a repeat customer.
Have a look at some businesses and people that we’ve helped with their visual identities on our website.
There’s often a dialogue between designers and clients about empty space, white space. It’s invariably along the lines of the client wanting to cram more copy and a bigger logo in a space, and the designer preciously protecting it at all costs.
The benefits of white space is well known and common practice for good designers. The deeper psychological impacts of it however are slightly more veiled.
Horror vacui is a latin phrase meaning the fear of empty space. The term is associated with the Italian scholar and art critic Mario Praz, who used it to describe the suffocating atmosphere of Victorian interior design.
Research suggests that there is an inverse relationship between horror vacui and the perception of value*. The theory goes that poorer, less educated people are attracted to horror vacui (full spaces), whereas rich consumers get used to having lots so therefore expect less.
This understanding is often applied to the design and layout of shops and visual merchandising. Simply put, as the number of items on display decreases, the perceived value of them increases. This can be clearly seen when you look at two fashion stores. Primark piles their shelves using every meter of their floorspace, whereas Berlin’s Four store concentrates on clean lines and white space. It’s clear which one sells the higher price fashion.
An incentive for value driven shops to show an abundance of products is because their business model requires them to sell higher volumes at cheaper prices. As a result, showing more products covers the shops’s product range.
It’s not just true for shop interiors either: Research suggests that applying the theory to window displays is beneficial for stores that wish to appeal to more affluent consumers. Here’s an example.
Of course, this thinking doesn’t just apply to three dimensional spaces: Here is the affect of empty space on the perceived value lager in these magazine adverts. Which drink would you be willing to pay more for?
Does displaying less (which requires constraint) give the impression of curation? And does curation imply education, knowledge and/or taste? It’s well worth considering when you look at your your own company’s visuals. Don’t be scared of empty spaces.
It’s all too easy to think of design as something that makes things look good. And often it does. That’s great. But design is a very powerful tool that has the ability to affect our everyday behaviours – our decisions, what we buy, how we vote… So it’s really important that we design well, we design responsibly.
The phrase dark patterns explains a practice of bad design. Dark patterns (coined by Dr Harry Brignull, who writes a lot about this topic) trick us into doing things that we wouldn’t usually do, and is most commonly experienced online. Bad design in this sense could by anything from deliberately using pre checked boxes on sign-ups to make sure we still receive
spamtheir latest news, to disguising pop-up adverts as buttons you should click on.
There are times when this sort of behavioural psychology can be used positively. Brignull discusses the example of opt out organ donation in many parts of the world, which is really good.
Customers invariably react badly to being tricked or mislead. We’re infuriated by Ryanair’s difficult booking system, we get frustrated when companies make it impossible to find their contact details (especially phone numbers!). There are endless examples discussed on this 90 Percent of Everything thread.
But because we react badly, through word-of-mouth, or just not using the particular website, business or service again, dark patterns aren’t really worth it. In fact, we would suggest that devious design can make companies loose more profits than it gains.
So it’s down to businesses to understand that this bad practice can’t carry on. And it’s down to designers to educate their clients.
It’s time to design responsibly.
Our brains work in patterns. And we recognise patterns around us everyday – in nature, in the news, in our jobs…
Good branding creates comprehensive patterns: You’ll see the same typography here, there, today, yesterday… Our brains join up the dots of the various parts to a good brand identity, and create a linked pattern in our minds (rather than a literal pattern).
There is a strong connection between patterns and memory, and one of the most valuable assets of a good brand identity is how memorable it becomes to customers. Customers can be reminded of your business just by seeing a colour or shape, which is actually very economic – the financial return on a new visual identity is proven. Cadbury has recently been granted permission to trademark its famous purple colour (Pantone 2685C), which shows how they value their visual identity.
When we start thinking about creating a new brand identity, we think in terms of patterns: What assets we can design to create your unique pattern, your unique identity. Have a look at some of the patterns we make.