And it’s profitable. Very, very, very profitable. Sounds even better now, doesn’t it?
Think about how much visual and auditory content you consume in a day. You see ads. You hear commercials. You watch presentations. You see the bus whizzing by with a huge call out plastered on the side. You read amazing and insightful blog posts like this one!
But all of that content starts to get lost. It gets muffled. Messages get jumbled and start to sound the same when you’re hearing that many in a day, often all at once. It’s death by PowerPoint -- so many slides and so much information that none of it matters and we walk away feeling overwhelmed at best, or totally disengaged at worst.
I’m a design guy. And while I believe there’s a lot that goes into creating powerhouse presentations and content, I also see the massive value that comes from creating out-of-this-world design.
When I design something -- it could be a print ad or a magazine piece or a presentation -- I pin up tons of source material so I can reference it over and over, then I put on my headphones and I get to it. I just GO. My goal? Creating powerful visual empathy by tapping into four key design principles -- more on those in a minute.
Be a master of artful design and visual empathy
But, as a design guy, I recognize it’s not always just about having a unique end product. Great design is also very artful.
Artful: the quality, production of expression of what is beautiful, appealing
or of more than ordinary significance according to aesthetic principles.
Notice the key word “aesthetics” in that definition? That’s very important. Aesthetics -- “the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty” -- is something designers and business leaders need to be cognizant of every time they introduce new visual content into the universe.
When I design I’m paying attention to all of these things. And, above all, I’m paying attention to emotions and how people will feel when they see my work. I’m paying attention to visual empathy.
Visual empathy = what you see (visual) + how it makes you feel (empathy)
Visual empathy is enormously powerful. When you see a picture of a man screaming, with visible fear in his eyes, you know he’s scared. If it’s a photo of a woman crying and gazing out a window, you know she’s sad. No words needed, no lingering questions or misconceptions. Everyone speaks the exact same language when it comes to visual empathy because, simply, feelings and emotions are so unbelievably universal.
Alignment is exactly what it sounds like -- everything just falls into place and fits where it should. When you look at a piece with great alignment, it just feels right. You feel good about it. It has strong subconscious resonance.
Alignment can also mean creating a peaceful look and feel to your work -- the balanced logo design, the evenly weighted copy...you get the idea.
Not aligned (left) versus aligned (right).
See it? Not aligned.
Another simple but important principle -- make sure you’re using high resolution images. Why? They look beautiful. And beautiful images is an essential step in having beautiful designs with strong visual empathy.
That might mean you have to pay for your images. Do it. Invest a few dollars in having the very best. If that’s not an option, scour the free stock sites like Unsplash.com. These and others have beautiful, hi-res, royalty-free photos, which they update frequently. So no excuse NOT to use hi-res images in your design work.
It’s powerful, right? If this slide had tons of words on it, it would lose some of its meaning, wouldn’t it? Not every single word has to be in your presentation. You’re speaking -- you’ll have tons of air time to verbally articulate your benefits and punch everything up with your power words. But embrace white space. Look at a brand like Apple. Their site is an homage to white space, and it’s one of the cleanest, most compelling and most intuitive brand experiences around.
Even if you’re aiming to change up your brand perception or image, consistency in colors is still key. Google has gone through a number of rebranding exercises since their launch, but when you look at the evolution you’ll see a common thread running through them all:
See it? Color consistency. The logo is so different than the launch logo but, still, incorporates the same colors from day one to the present. Some of the changes were big, some were barely noticeable -- removing a serif or killing a shadow. But by keeping colors consistent, you can rebrand and draw in new consumers but, at the same time, won’t totally alienate your existing audience base. They’ll look at Brand Logo 2.0 and still see something familiar -- the colors! Everyone wins.
One final note: I always add a signature touch to my design work, that speaks to this notion of silent seduction. In my work, there’s always something hidden right in plain view:
See anything? This was from a program for a recent seminar series, designed to help entrepreneurs and business leaders hone their sales pitch.
Still can’t see what’s hidden in the image.
How about now?
I hid Yoda on one of the concert-goer’s phone. If you aren’t a Star Wars fan, Yoda’s the wise sage of the series, with some of the most memorable and powerful one-liners. And, in this case, he’s got a secret message: “ready for any stage you are.” Why? Because, by employing these simple steps, attendees would no doubt be ready for any stage. And, if you can harness these principles of visual empathy and silent seduction, you definitely will be, too.
The key takeaway here? Design incites emotions, and your job is to make sure what you’re putting out into the world on behalf of your brand and your products incites the right message. The message you want consumers to experience. There’s good design and there’s bad design and they both make us feel something. Think of it like a clean room versus a messy room. When you walk into a messy room you want out. It makes you feel uncomfortable. It sets a specific tone -- and not a great one.
Great design equals great business. You want great business, so you need to commit yourself and your team to great design every time. It’s simple, it’s meaningful and it’s beyond effective -- you will excel if what you have to say resonates. And it will resonate if it’s visually empathetic.
I’m here to chat more about visual empathy, so get in touch. I’m offering up free consultations to cover off on all things amazing design. Sign up and let’s keep the quality design conversation going, and figure out how we can take your presentations and brand materials from good to attention-grabbing, emotion-inciting, sales-generating masterpieces. It’s easier than you might think…