4 min read04-02-2021

Stand out with psychological design

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The Isolation Effect or ‘stand out in the crowd’

This is another name for The Von Restorff Effect. It states that when multiple different objects are shown, the one object that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered. There are various different ways ‘the effect’ on your designs, and we're going to explore every single angle, and use of this psychological theory in your graphic designs.

So how does a psychological theory from 1933 migrate into graphic design and why is it useful? Firstly, something that utilizes the effect is the use of call-to-actions. These are mainly used in UX and UI design but also in print design too. Now using the isolation effect ensures that the call to action looks different from different action buttons on a website or application. As an example, we want the users to be able to see the difference between a simple action button and then a call-to-action button. Tapping into a person sub-conscience in this manner allows you to steer the viewers’ attention and navigation of a website design. Most viewers are not going to be aware that they're being steered into a specific direction via call to action using the isolation effect, but we are human beings, and this kind of design theory plays right into our instinctive and hardwired conditioning. This is why knowing about psychological patterns is so crucial as a designer.

You're ultimately controlling the emotional response and intuition of the viewer.

More uses to stand out

With lists, people often remember the first couple of items, then also the last few items on the list, and eventually, they can't forget the middle entries. So, if you want the middle entries to stand out on your list, you can use this effect to make them more memorable. This is not only used by marketing teams to steer customers and persuade them to commit to a purchase, as a designer you want to make your design elements look like they belong together and tell a consistent visual story. You also want to delight your audience by putting in a few surprises and twists and turns. These creative tweaks can actually prevent boredom to the viewer and render your designs that much more memorable. You can make a specific section of text larger, bolder, or simply different in appearance as an example. There are many small and discreet additions that you can make your designs that utilize it and can all help to boost your designs to the next level.

White and gold egg

So, it is mainly used in advertising and UI and UX design, but it can be used in such things as branding. Now, one example would be to take a look at the sector of business of that brand and notice the color scheme that other companies use for that sector of business. Then what you would do is, you would go against this color trend as a means to stand out in that brand niche. However, the color scheme that you use should still work for a specific industry or business. There is one very good example of this being used in real-time, and that is Snapchat. Social media icons tend to largely be blue in color or for the lesser option red. However, Snapchat took the bold move to move to a bright and a bold imposing yellow with a logo design. Mentally speaking, I'm sure as soon as you hear or you read the word Snapchat, you probably have a yellow color appear in your thoughts somewhere along the lines. Now if Snapchat was blue it might sink into a sea of numerous social media platforms within your mind and thus become lost. So, as you can see the effect can be used in a larger scheme of things in order to make a brand or entity that much more memorable to the masses.

The downfall of it all

The problem is that using the isolation effect, you SAP the viewers’ attention span onto one pinpointed area depending on how blatant and how obvious the contrast is. This can harm the execution of a design if vital information is not taken in by the viewer because they're too focused on one area of the design. Viewers have generally got a short attention span, sometimes a little as a few seconds.

So, we suggest using it as one tool, among many different tools as a designer. This is something to take into account when using this effect on your designs. However, you can also leave it up to the designers of course.

We hope you enjoyed the read and learned a bit more about this phycological design technique.


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