“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I used to work in an in-house design department for a corporate event company. Every so often an event producer would say to me “It must be so much fun to be a designer and play around with fonts and colors all day.”
Yes and no.
There is an element of enjoyment in perusing color palettes and other forms of inspiration. Sometimes I’ll stumble across something for a different project I’m working on or for future reference that I tuck away for later. It’s pretty cool as a project goes from some rough pencil sketches that don’t look like they’ll ever amount to anything to a fully-realized design.
Here’s the thing.
The choices made in design aren’t random. While I can safely say pretty much everyone who is a designer is one because they enjoy it, we’re not making choices because the photo or the color palette is pretty. It may be pretty but that’s not the deciding factor.
The deciding factor is does it work? Does the design create the feeling we need it to create? Does it motivate people to act?
There are a number of elements that factor into a design. Around every project that comes through my door is…
- an audience (mom, CEO, athlete)
- a desired outcome (donation, read, join)
- a feeling that needs to be conveyed (relaxation, empowerment, excitement)
- an intention
What attracts that athlete may not attract that mom or CEO. We, as humans, respond to the visual much more quickly than the written word. It is important that design is created to convey the appropriate emotions and message to the appropriate audience.
Design is the connecting road between you and your customers.
Color Me Crazy
Of the elements in design, I would say color is the most influential. Over 80% of consumers make a purchase based solely on color. I tend to prefer items that have jewel tones or dark colors. I hardly ever buy anything that is pastel, unless I need to buy it and that’s my only option. I’m not sure I could pinpoint why, exactly. I could probably create a logical sounding reason as to why but, in truth, I’d say color preference is rarely logical.
“I just don’t like purple.” while floating through your mind is that one dress your mom bought you in junior high, you had to wear it to school but it never felt like you because you liked pants and blue! Or green is the color of your teams’ biggest rival so, sorry, but “I don’t buy anything green”. << I saw this in the Facebook comments so it has to be true! 😉
Despite this certain colors do, in general, elicit a certain reaction. When choosing color it’s important to consider the emotion you’d like to convey but also your audience.
Let’s say I have a client who runs a spa and would like to create a flyer. Color choices that immediately come to mind are serene whites, sky blues and sea greens. These lighter, pastel colors are typically chosen to create a soothing feeling, to invite you in to relax.
In bold contrast, another client comes in who runs motorcycle races and would also like to create a flyer. The audience in this case is very different. The colors that come to mind for motorcycle race design will be bold and bright like reds, bright blues and yellows – to elicit excitement and energy.
What’s your type?
Another way to intentionally convey your message is through font choice. Fonts are sometimes more subtle but can be just as impactful.
An easy example is a wedding invitation. When you pull out thick cardstock from an envelope with a lining colored to match and see flowing script, you know it’s going to be a more formal affair. When you pull out the medium-weight invite with a printed san-serif font (like this one!), you know it’s probably going to be more casual.
In the case of our spa client, we’d most likely favor simple fonts and/or script fonts. Spa goers tend to be female (though not all) and the soft edges of the letters create flow as they go from one letter to the next.
That motorcyle race flyer will use typography that is thick and many times, italic. Italic might seem like an odd choice for a motorcycle flyer but when used with a thick font, it creates a feeling of bold movement. These kinds of fonts make a big impact and get your attention very quickly.
Layout is the placement of elements like type, photos and white space on the piece being designed. The placement of elements is used to guide the viewer’s eye around, leading them from one element to the next.
A quick note: White space is an area where there is no element like type or photos. It also does not have to be white think high-end luxury vehicle ads that tend to use black and very little text. I’ve had many a conversation about white space with clients (especially in that corporate event job) and how, if there is room on the page, we should use all of it. White space, though, serves the regal purpose of giving the eye a break. It may seem like wasted space but human eyes and brains can only take in so much at a time and this ‘empty’ space provides some breathing room. It also allows other elements to stand stronger in their own right as they are not competing with another element. (ok, that wasn’t as quick as I thought!)
For the spa flyer, photography would usually be of the services they offer, running streams and/or blissed-out-looking people. The copy is usually laid out simply, no jumping around the page. Any shapes are usually curved, lines and edges are soft. Spa flyers also take advantage of white space (that usually is white!) to really elicit that feeling of peace that people who go to spas are looking for.
A race flyer, on the other hand, rarely has any white space. Photos and text take up the entire design element though this works well for this type of audience and event. Photography is big and bold promising excitement with bikes in mid-air or barreling around a curve. The copy is short and to the point – typically the race name, location and date. Any shapes are usually thick lines, hard angles and off-kilter layouts to create energy.
Are there exceptions? Always. You may want to create spa services that cater to motorcycle racers, who are typically male (though yay! that’s starting to change). You’d need to find out how those racers like to unwind, what they’d like to do for themselves but never do and shatter some stereotypes about spas and masculinity especially in certain levels of racing. I’d say you have your work cut out for you in this case, but it’s certainly doable! After doing the research work, deciding on the goal for your marketing and creating the copy for your offering, design is the final piece that creates the connection between you and your audience.
Article photos: header photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash; sketch & logo are my own; pastel color palette from Design Seeds on Pinterest; all other images were found on Google and belong to their respective companies and/or designers.