Our main goal as an art director or graphic designer is to get the message in the heads of the target group. We do this by using graphics, video, music, perfumes... basically through the senses. Our education tells us to use images, certain font sizes, etc. To make the product have a high appeal and understandability we have to stick to these rules. This is nothing new - but if you switch the perspective you get to another level. Art directors and graphic designers use psychology and try to manipulate human behavior every day. How can you improve these skills?
Well, art directors don't need to learn as much about psychology as do therapist - our goal is not to cure people (ok sometimes we want to cure someone from having bad taste). Our main goal is to understand the main schemes that make human work. Is important to say though, that advertising in any form shouldn't (and mostly can't) manipulate customers. It's my strong believe, that advertising can only activate desires I already have inside me - not induce new ones. I also believe that advertising should never lie - it can be strong and say things in a favorable way, but not lie. If you lie, and you get caught on it you lose all your reputation. This is really bad for a brand or a firm. Let's get back on track, as this will be lessons of its own.
Why use psychology if I cannot use it
You can use it, but you should know that it will never be an exact thing. It shows you the direction but cannot assure you the results. Art directors, like myself use psychological and other studies to back design decisions and strategies to my clients. Using facts from studies during presentation are a strong reputation amplifier for you and your project. The facts state that you know what you are talking about because you can proof it through data (preferably from an authority). The switch from using empirical data, which are most of the design rules we learn at schools, to base our design decisions on psychological knowledge and behavior studies is not as big as you might think.
Studies for art directors
The easiest way to enter the realms of psychology is to look at all the design rules you apply (you do aren't you) and to see if there are some studies that explain them. Most of the rules we know to work well have now their own studies. It’s a little bit difficult to find them, because the studies don't have the main goal of proving a design rule. They are mostly made to understand a certain human behavior, physical feature or psychological phenomenon. The most important part is in port these studies to your working field. This is necessary in order for you to use the new acquired knowledge. It is also necessary to reformulate this knowledge in a form your clients can understand why this study matters to this project.
In the next lesson I will show you where to find the lessons and some examples how to port the findings into the advertising business.