Psychology and design can connect in a number of surprising ways.
Science has the habit of trying to define the undefinable. While such efforts can come in handy, like translating the beauty of the naked universe into innovations that make our lives easier, other times it's just impossible. Not everything can be manipulated, quantified and organized into neat little packets of digestible information. Sometimes, as great minds often say these days, it is what it is.
Like most things in life, however, there are exceptions. When it comes to design, psychology has actually made significant inroads into discovering why certain things catch our eye and capture our imaginations. In other words, science can wade through the many messages good design lends to our brains and decipher what makes us tick. For that reason, such discoveries are the things an advertiser's dreams are made of.
Semiotics: The Science Behind Cool
As it turns out, there's an entire branch of psychology that's exclusively devoted to figuring out what tickles our collective fancy. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols in our communication and how they convey meaning to us. While it can include everything from hand gestures to text, it's visual symbols that are especially important to design and its impact.
Our minds make connections that we're usually not even aware exist. Sometimes those connections are almost universal in nature, like the image of a colorful sunset or the sound of rain, but other times they are unique to our own experiences and tastes. Semiotics looks for those connections and attempts to explain both their existence as well as their impact on our mood, behavior, and actions.
More often than not, our brains organize visual data into compartments, making them simpler for us to interpret. When certain characteristics are found within that visual data, like symmetry for instance, it makes it easier for our minds to organize it, therefore making it more appealing. In essence, our brains are always looking for the simplest, most efficient way to go about things. When visual data is easy for our mind to categorize it, we automatically find it more attractive and insightful.
Design is Part Artistic, Part Science, But Entirely Creative
Of course, science's ability to explain the appeal behind design doesn't diminish the artistry behind it. After all, everything about us comes down to biology in some way, including the forces that make images beautiful, logos memorable, and advertising copy impactful. We are absolute marvels of curiosity and expression, so it's only natural that science would attempt to decipher the countless dynamics that define us as individuals.