By Mahdis Nikou
I’m sure you will all agree with me that there are lots of articles, point of views and arguments around brand identity, brand personality and advertising. When it comes to branding everyone’s got a lot to say about how companies & organisations should or shouldn’t use design as a tool of communication. Market research companies aren’t excluded in this hype either.
As I was reading through an interesting article by Lucy Davison & Paul Buckley about the importance of branding in market research, The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Branded; my curiosity was piqued by their recent visual exploration based on 25 global research company identities. They analysed each logo according to six design fundamentals: Colour, shape, form, font, imagery and symbol. But what they found was an overwhelming use of blue & grey. In addition to this, square was the dominant logo shape applied in most designs
So what does it all mean? Why blue, grey and square?
When it comes to design, colour plays an important role. Each colour has its own meaning and many believe that if a certain colour is used in the right place the results could be extremely successful.
For example, have you ever wondered why the majority of food chain restaurants have used red, yellow or a combination of both as their primary colour in their branding? Think of Mc Donald’s, KFC, Burger King, Nando’s, Dominos and Pizza Hut. In colour psychology, red and yellow are known to subconsciously stimulate appetite and increase excitement. According to recent studies, people tend to spend more and leave quicker if they are surrounded by red & yellow colour combinations in a restaurant, which is exactly what fast food businesses want you to do and here they’re achieving it by just applying a simple colour principle!
The same theory applies in market research. There is a reason why blue and grey are the dominant colours when it comes to research company brand identity and yet again that reason is linked to the psychology behind colours and our subconscious mind.
In colour theory, blue is associated with intelligence, communication & confidence. Different shades of blue also provide mental clarity, prove productivity and instil trust. Similar to blue, grey is known as the colour of neutrality, wisdom, stability and compromise – all potentially positive attributes for a market research company.
But let’s not forget that while these two colours are known for having many positive and intellectual meanings, overusing them can also communicate stillness, settlement and aloofness. Often this familiarity and stability along with their commonness, well, can seem boring and dull!!
So how can design help us?
Now that we’ve come to an understanding about why the world of market research might seem a bit bland, it’s time to dig a bit deeper into ways of improving our brand image by using the right design theory.
While colour is one of the most important part of any design, it’s not the only fact we should focus on. When it comes to design, each element has its own characteristic. Shapes, fonts, lines, patterns, textures, contrast, composition they all communicate messages separately but when we put them all together, within the right hierarchy, that’s when the magic starts.
Visual hierarchy is a simple but essential design principle. This is the art of organising & prioritising design elements into a form of layout that guides your audience’s eyes from one element to another. Where you want your audience to look first, what’s the first call of action you want to draw attention to and how punchy you want your message to come across are all dependent on gaining a good understanding of visual hierarchy.
To give you a better understanding of this principle I created a layout to show you how visual hierarchy works in a simple example. Look at the image below and try to memorise your eyes movement on the page.
I can pretty much guarantee that your eyes traced on the page like this:
If my assumptions were right, your eyes focused on the big bold title on the left first. You then got dragged into the right side looking at the tiny text on top of the pencil pointing at it. The coloured box was the third element your eyes paid attention to. You then looked at the paragraph to find out what the content is about. Finally, the small text underneath the red box was the last element you paid attention to.
Now here’s the same content showed on a page without a strong sense of hierarchy:
Boring? Confusing? Uninteresting? I thought so.
You probably noticed that your eyes are finding it hard to focus on one specific element on the page and if you’re keep looking at the image then the chunky paragraph above it thinking “Oh god who wants to read that?” I won’t blame you!
This is what hierarchy does. It makes your content look interesting. It encourages your audience to focus on different elements based on their importance. It brings movement to the page and it creates the right balance between your text and image.
Q: “I’m not a designer, what should I do?” A: Use your tool box more often!
The good news is that you don’t have to be a designer in order to achieve hierarchy. You just need to experiment a bit more with your tool box. Whether you’re using PowerPoint or even Word as your primary platform or a more advanced software like Adobe InDesign, you can still create a hierarchy that communicates your content efficiently.
In my next post I will show you how by adjusting font size, creating contrast, placing imagery and using colours you can achieve hierarchy more in depth.
Thanks for reading & until next time!