Joshua Rawson-Harris / Unsplash

Clever design controls what you buy, whether you like it or not

Quick Notes

  • The design philosophy is sneaky.

  • It’s all about color and shape.

  • You might really like a product, but it may just look good to your brain.

The old adage of judging a book by its contents rather than its cover has been spewed about in all areas of life, but in the real world, that’s much easier said than done. People are naturally drawn to things that are pleasing at first glance, and there’s a scientific reason for it.

Consumerism, for example, has taken full advantage of clever design to make their products stand out from the crowd, thus growing their profits. The subliminal designs that companies use directly target their potential buyers without them even knowing it.

How it works

Very rarely is a product the only one of its kind, so companies have to use more than what’s in the box as a means for driving people to buy it. Enter package design—or their most important means of making customers out of strangers.

The subconscious mind picks up on these subliminal messages and sends the signal to the brain that a particular product is superior based solely on what the design communicates. There is a reason some brands are more successful than others, and it’s in the way their designs communicate to the part of the brain that’s in control of decision making.

 Unsplash / Boxed Water Is Better

Colour Use

Each and every color that companies use in their packaging conveys a certain meaning. When used in package design, these colors have an impact so great that even the consumer doesn’t know the ruse behind why they buy what they buy. Blue signifies honesty, strength, security, and care. Red, being a bolder color gives off excitement, passion, and energy.

Yellow offers logic, optimism, confidence. Orange is happiness and affordability. Green shows growth, freshness, and nature. Purple signifies creativity and nostalgia. Multi-colored is both playful and bold, and black equals sophistication and luxury. So, when a consumer is looking at these packages, their mind goes to a place—whether it be a secure place, an exciting place or a place of sophistication—and chooses which product is superior based on that.

Other factors

The placement of their graphic design, the shapes they use in their logos, and even font choice can go a long way when it comes to having people choose their product over the competitors. As with colors, both shapes and font convey their own messages, too.

Circles give a sense of community and make the brain connect the dots to a stable partnership. Squares, triangles, and rectangles all convey a sharper, more powerful appeal, making their brand appear strong and professional. Simple lines even have an impact on the brain because it automatically associates horizontal lines with tranquility and vertical lines with aggression.

What it means for consumers

All these factors mashed together give the consumer an idea of the qualities of the brand before they’ve had the chance to even try the product.

The connections the brain makes are instantaneous, so researching a product only comes after the clever design told you it was worth Googling.

Seeing the products sitting in the grocery aisle or even with fast food logos, it’s almost as if the subconscious brain is making a choice before the conscious one also figures it out. Companies spend thousands of dollars on good graphic design for a reason, after all.

Can you do anything about it?

The short answer is no. The subconscious mind controls much of what you do without you even realizing it. The only way to beat the system is to accept that you have little control and maybe do some research on a product before spending any money on it.

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