One of the things that many designers do not consider is the biology vrs Psychology of perception and vision. It is important to realize that these things are exactly how information is digested by your users and that a fundamental understanding of how this process works will greatly improve the effectiveness of your work.
Human beings have an advanced filtration system to allow us to distinguish between what it is that is important and what can be disregarded. The occipital lobe is where all visual information is processed. It should be noted that these are the smallest lobes found in the brain and process all the information sent from the retina through the optic nerve. The retina is like the focal point of a camera where light is cast on a series of special nerve cells that create the picture we are viewing. This information is then sent to the occipital lobe for processing.
The retina sees all and does not distinguish anything. It cant tell the difference in importance between a tree in the background or that truck that is about to run you over. It is the job of the occipital lobe to decide what is important and this is decided by how it has been programmed.
Ever had a day when everything seemed to go wrong. Even the sun may seem dim or too bright. It wasn’t but your brain had been put in bad day mode and even your perceptional vision had been altered. This is an example of how this information is put to work. Vision is less a function of Biology then it is Psychology for our purposes. It is knowing how things will be translated and how to actively engage the audience in a way that is constructive that must be sorted out.
So whats important:
Well food, sex, shelter are the basics that are biological imperatives. If you have ever wondered why sex is one of the major staples in advertising it is because our eyes and our brain is Biological designed to constantly seek out sexual partners. The reason this is often used in conjunction with alcohol is because alcohol inhibits so called “higher” brain functions. In a sense it inhibits the things we have been taught are wrong our fearful and we are more drawn to do what is basal to our biology. People are not biological designed to buy cars or wear clothing or many of the other things we do though out our day. These are culturally learned and this comes back to what is important.
Aside from the basal needs of Homo erectus we are taught ways to meet these needs and these are described by our culture. These are things that we teach each other through modeling, shaming, praising and other forms of behavior modification.
This is why it is an extremely bad idea to hire someone outside of your culture to market to your user base or audience. Many business have gone to countries such as India for cheap design and development work only to find out that the audience is repelled by the design.
If you where trying to sell the idea of Christmas to Aborigines you would not use someone from Northern Ireland who would likely use depictions of snow and reindeer. Your audience has never seen snow so there is some evidence to believe that they would not even see it. Things that are so completely foreign to our reality are disregarded by the occipital lobe because it has no memory to base it on and subsequently sees it as irrelevant (having no relationship) to getting the persons needs met.
If we can find a way to get the occipital lobe to pay attention to us for five seconds we have now moved into short-term memory. This is not a bad thing but we still have a lot of work to do. The easiest way to move from short-term memory to long term is to evoke a severe emotional response to what we are presenting.
The use of humor is a great way to bridge this gap to long-term memory. Laughing releases endorphins and makes us feel good. This in turn releases polypeptides that are distributed all over the body. These cause reactions on a cellular level communicating to every cell in the body that it is time to feel good. If you don’t believe me and you are over 35 years of age I have on thing to say to you “Wheres the beaf?” Now that’s long term memory… way to go Wendy’s.
Or more correctly unconscious thought is that which we do not perceive as important but still retain or that which is repressed do to so internalized fear. Regardless it is perception that has crossed the occipital lobes and made it into our reasoning process. This is another tool often used by companies with larger war chests to work with.
Virgin Mobil used this technique when it first hit the market in order to help the brand enter the main stream. The company realized that they were up against ATT and other companies who had become household names and thus had incorporated into how we saw ourselves. You see for many people they spend most of their lives looking outside themselves to define who they are. As apposed to asking how I can come to some form of internalized balance they attempt to become balanced with the things they see around them. This is where Virgin Mobil came in.
They ended up being everywhere. They bought adds all over Myspace. They did extensive product placement in movies and TV. They even purchase landmark building adds to appear part of our environment. It was a brilliant strategy because it was the marketing that never happened.
This form of marketing works well even on a smaller form. The point is not to be overtly recognized but appear important at the same time. This way the visual cortex basically says… “Nothing really to see here but I have been seeing it a lot and so I will hold on to it.” This is also often connected with a mood word or phrase. Something like “Be you!”. And a visual color scheme that adds to the contextually desired emotion. The reason for this is because of how the brain stores information by locating relevant pieces of information together. So the company name stored in close relation to something that invokes a pleasurable feeling will fundamentally link them together. And walla you have a brand!
The real issue is keeping it… as we saw with Virgin Mobil who spent more many on their marketing campaign then their products which always causes a negative back loop.
This is very relevant to the web since we are using interactive marketing involving several forms of media presentation. Simply remember that it is all magic and the trick is in knowing how it is done. And it is all done by manipulating perception.
Thanks for reading and I hope that it helps.
All of my consulting tips are free to use but of course everyone’s situation is a little different. If you would like consulting on your particular needs feel free to contact me as some of these tips may not be appropriate for your needs.