How Design can Build Value
Viewed side-by-side, the image on the right is what automatically draws the eye, but why does this version resonate more than the other? In a nutshell, the answer is good, carefully considered branding. Essentially, the box on the left is a classic example of telling instead of showing. Food companies have displayed their products on packaging since the rise of advertising photography in the 1920’s, but what does this strategy actually say?
Whether conscious of it or not, consumers gravitate toward branding that feels sophisticated and nuanced as opposed to blunt and crowded. That’s why the Tetley designs on the right are so much more powerful: their ability to evoke a feeling just by looking at them. Their choice of pattern and shared color palette are not only universally appealing, they also succeed at instilling a sense of calm and tranquility that reflects the brand’s core message.
In comparison, the box on the left seems stale at best, with its cartoonish graphics and plain, dark blue background that doesn’t say much of anything at all. One might argue that offering more than one flavor option defeats the purpose of simplicity, but the colored stripes on the re-designed boxes actually help make that decision for you by conjuring up sense memories so strong that you can almost taste them. This is “showing” at its finest.
Everything including the pattern, color choice, and font used on the updated boxes, as well as their intriguing sales copy and high-quality packaging, serve to build one, very important thing: value. While the box on the left literally tells you how much it’s worth – 240 tea bags – those on the right don’t have to say a thing. That’s what sets expert branding apart from the amateur. We want to feel like we’re buying quality instead of just quantity.
Why More is Often Less
It might seem logical to think that by offering a huge variety of features and services to people who visit your website, you’ll be able to increase conversion rates and broaden your customer base. Or, if you’re working on a product and feel unsatisfied with the design, adding more bells and whistles might seem like the way to go. Unfortunately, this is how many good, original ideas lose the perspective that made them unique in the first place.
The truth is, that kind of mentality is poisonous to creating a competent design, and often to blame for cluttered websites and clunky products. Plus, it’s exhausting for consumers. When faced with an extensive assortment of options, many people can actually experience something known as “analysis paralysis”, which means they’re so overwhelmed by their options that they walk away without choosing anything.
Products and websites that are both attractive and thorough are as such because they play to their strengths. As long as a website’s purpose is clear, and it is effective at what it was intended for, there’s no reason to add anything else to it. In regards to product design, the same is true. Empty space, simple colors, and minimalism are not your enemy. The trick is to make what you already have as visually appealing and efficient as possible.
Where is the Proof?
If you want to get scientific, a real-life example of this principle in action can be observed from the results of a 1975 experiment by researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole. They placed identical cookies into two matching glass jars, but divided them so that one jar held ten cookies while the other had only two inside. The point of this was to see how scarcity affected how much worth people placed on the cookies. This pretense of rarity had an undeniable impact given that participants instinctively valued the near-empty jar of cookies more.
Braun designer Dieter Rams is one of the foremost individuals to have taken this knowledge and turned it into a highly advantageous business model. Visionaries like Rams are most likely born with an intuitive understanding of how design and human nature influence the choices we make – this more than anything else is the true reason for their success – but anyone can follow their example if time is taken to understand why it works so well.
Photo: Marco Illuminati
According to Rams, “good design is as little design as possible”, and a valuable product should be at once innovative, useful, visually appealing, understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, and thorough. You won’t find a more solid foundation of principles to build from. Just ask Apple, whose chief design officer Jonathan Ive has been known to take inspiration from Rams. The brand similarities are clear when you compare their aesthetics.
You’ll notice that brands like Braun and Apple don’t have to depend on flashy appearances to attract attention. This is the case for a number of reasons, but basically, they know better. Not only does such an approach come across as inauthentic to consumers, it’s also nearly always unsustainable in the long term. Products and designs that drip gold, assail the eyes with a full crayon box of colors, or scream at you with obnoxious fonts are generally viewed as novelties – good for a laugh, but otherwise seen as too showy and easily forgettable.
How Should I Start?
Most people start out with the goal of making their brand simple and accessible, but tend to begin overthinking it along the way, ultimately complicating things by accident. When designing a website, for example, its natural to be tempted to load all of the pages with content in the hopes of making a lasting impression. If you find yourself heading down this road, take a step back and get some perspective – you’re telling consumers what you have to offer instead of just showing them. Succeed at showing them, and that’s all the impression you’ll need.
Whether the product in question is physical or digital, attention must be given to what really matters. Superfluous designs are as conspicuous as someone who talks just to hear their own voice. The best way to avoid such a pitfall? Focus on conveying the finer points of your brand message as succinctly and effectively as possible, and don’t ever forget the impact of clean imagery and a simple, refined appearance.
Do you want to get started right now? We recommend that you head over to Pexel or Unsplash for high quality, royalty free photos, and try browsing for font inspiration at https://fonts.google.com/.