Out of the five human senses, we perceive up to 80% of all impressions by means of our sight.
Evolutionary biology says visual pattern recognition was a survival tool that enabled early humans to identify and respond to threats in nature. Then and now, things like the Golden Ratio, symmetry and balance and color serve as visual indicators that something is safe, desirable and persistent, sparking the human brain to consider it beautiful.
In the modern attention economy, visual perception remains key in shaping our behaviors. And the importance of beauty exceeds mere visual appeal; it significantly impacts how we evaluate things, influencing our actions, emotions and overall satisfaction. Understanding the power of optics and harnessing the allure of beauty is crucial for designing impactful and memorable experiences.
The Power of First Impressions
As the primary channel through which we absorb information, visual perception holds unparalleled importance. Inherently drawn to visually appealing elements, studies show that humans form opinions about a design within milliseconds of exposure. A harmoniously designed object or space immediately commands attention, making us more receptive to the intended message. Visuals are what humans remember the most, leaving a lasting impression on our minds.
Emotion and Visual Perception
Beautiful and aesthetically pleasing visuals have the capacity to evoke strong emotions, whether it's the calming effect of a serene landscape or the excitement elicited by vibrant and dynamic artwork. Alternatively, a poorly-crafted or ill-fitting visual has the potential to significantly deter viewers. For better or for worse, emotionally charged visuals forge a more profound connection with the viewer, heightening the overall impact of the design.
Perception of Quality
When the human brain considers something visually appealing, it associates it with being high quality. This phenomenon is known as the "halo effect," where positive attributes like beauty influence our perception of other qualities like functionality, usability and reliability. Businesses and designers alike understand that investing in aesthetics can enhance the perceived value of their offerings.
User Experience and Usability
The user experience and usability of a product is equally as important to the visual beauty. A well-designed product or website takes user needs and preferences into account, providing an intuitive interface and seamless navigation. When aesthetics and functionality align, users feel more engaged, and their interaction with the design becomes more pleasant than appreciating imagery alone.
Branding and Identity
Consistent, visually appealing branding establishes a memorable and recognizable presence in the minds of consumers. Think of iconic brands like Nike or Starbucks, whose design aesthetics are deeply intertwined with their identity and personality. Nike’s “Swoosh” logo and Starbucks’ signature green (Pantone 7727 C) are synonymous to those brands; nearly everybody can picture their logos and colors in their own minds. Beauty can become a powerful tool for brands to communicate their values in a differentiated way, and establish a unique emotional bond with their audience.
Ultimately, the allure of beauty in design is deeply intertwined with the power of visual perception. Human brains are hardwired through evolution to prioritize what we see, vision being the first sense we rely on and the one we remember most. Designers that appreciate this relationship can harness the captivating influence of beauty to create meaningful experiences, embracing beauty as an essential aspect of the human experience while also considering the responsibilities that come with wielding its power.
The challenge for the designer is to understand what constitutes beauty for the consumer in context: as a multifaceted concept that transcends cultural and individual boundaries, beauty is a subjective experience that captivates physical senses, emotions and collective social perceptions. Appreciating a target audience’s perspective on tone, color, typography and styles is key to crafting a visual campaign that effectively captures both a brand message and resonates with its consumers.
Individual tastes, cultural influences and moments in time are some characteristics that can influence how people define beauty. However, it’s hard to define what makes something beautiful. There needs to be an impartiality when defining beauty, otherwise the human brain will encode a bias that could prove difficult to unravel.
In summary, beauty affects the subconscious more than we realize. If you’re curious to learn more, consider watching this video about Why Beautiful Things Make Us Happy.