5 min read

3 Psychology Principles to Use in Graphic Design

Published on
August 17, 2021
woman smiling and thinking against blue background
Leah Camps
Marketing Executive
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Ever wondered why we can't seem to take our eyes off some pieces of graphic design, and other pieces leave us feeling kind of irritated? When we spend time researching how psychological principles effect how our design captures the attention of the viewer, we learn how to control their eye and draw it to the most important parts. That not only equals better graphic design, it also means our marketing will be a lot more powerful. Let's have a closer look at 3 different psychology principles that can help you upgrade your marketing in this article.

The Von Restorff Effect

According to the Laws of UX site, "The Von Restorff effect, also known as The Isolation Effect, predicts that when multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered." So in the example below for example, it's pretty likely your eye was first drawn to the yellow square.

This effect was first noted by a German paediatrician and psychiatrist named Hedwig von Restorff (hence the name), who in 1933 conducted a study where participants were presented with a list of categorically similar items with one distinctive isolated item on the list. You guessed it... the distinctive item on the list was remembered best.Pretty cool, right? But how does that help us with our graphic design?Basically, if you want someone to remember a piece of information more than anything else on that page - you've got to make it distinctive.That doesn't always mean highlighting the element in a different colour but can also mean using a different font, size, or placement compared to the other visual elements on the page. This can be applied in areas you want to draw more attention to a particular product or service too!We can also start to how the Von Restorff effect could apply to our marketing efforts.

The same thing as everyone else will help you fit in, sure, but that's not what your aim should be. If you want to dominate your market, the only way to get noticed is to make sure everything you do is distinctive. Of course, the Von Restorff effect is referring mainly to the visually distinctive differences between items within a similar category but we can start to see how that can apply into wider concepts too. Is your logo too similar to those in your field? Are you using the same free design templates for social media as half of your competitors? Is your recruitment marketing and culture simply mimicking that of someone else in your field or are you creating a truly unique option?Understanding the Von Restorff effect will undoubtedly help when creating marketing collateral that draws the eye to crucial bits of information that will encourage conversion rates.

Colour Psychology

Using different colours to portray or encourage different emotional responses has been a technique that is really commonly used. For a long time, it was questioned whether colour really could have an effect on someones reaction or whether it was a bit exaggerated. However, modern scientific studies have begun to highlight the ways colour can have an impact. In fact, "Red causes people to react with greater speed and force, something that might prove useful during athletic activities according to researchers." (Source)

Again, although that is an interesting fact, how does it apply to graphic design?Knowing the connotations certain colours have can help us to better communicate thoughts and ideas in a clear way graphically. Take for example a game show. When the answer is wrong, you'll usually expect to have the answer flash red. We don't need any more explanation that that to be able to ascertain that the question is incorrect! In that scenario, colour is used to portray a negative outcome without any need for further text. When we're designing in smaller dimensions, the colours you use can have a big impact to tell a story without the need for extensive copy. For example, yellow is often associated with the feeling of joy so you might consider incorporating that when launching new products or giving positive news to your audience.Great graphic design is all about making those small tweaks to the work in order to create a better visual story for the viewer. You can tell an even better story through your graphic design with the help of properly selected colours.Learn more about colour theory and why it's important here. 

The Centre-Stage Effect

The centre-stage effect is very much what it sounds like... when we're given a set of objects, we tend to gravitate towards the one in the middle.In 2012, researchers based at the University of Chester conducted a test that highlighted our bias towards the centre product in a line up. Everyone in the study was shown a picture of a line up of objects and asked which one they preferred. In each of the images, there were 5 similar objects arranged horizontally. The results of the study showed that the participants had most commonly preferred those in the centre of the line-up.

"In a follow-up study in which participants had to choose between an array of real items, i.e. identical white socks that were displayed vertically, the effect still persisted. " (Source)Clearly, the Centre-stage effect can have an impact on how our work is viewed. Take for example an area on your website where you are presenting 3 offers to your customer, it's a great idea to ensure that the central offer is the one you want the majority to select and to highlight that accordingly through your design. You could also use the centre-stage effect in presentation design to highlight the most important points!In this article, we've given an introduction to just three psychological principles that affect the way we perceive design and help us understand how to create more powerful graphic design. We hope you're inspired to look to create more knowledgeable choices behind the graphic design being used in your marketing campaigns, and if you'd like some help from one of our experts just get in touch today.