neuropsychology essential in design

Neuropsychology in design

Neuropsychology is the relationship between the physical brain and behaviour, where the things processed in the mind, have a real-world effect on the decisions we make, it will dictate our response to outside stimulus, whether we should be afraid or happy, whether we should run or stand our ground. Although I cannot talk really deeply about neuropsychology I can talk about its relationship to design and as a designer, this subject is an essential part of learning about design. If at the end of this blog you want to find out more, I would highly recommend a book called Neuro Design: Neuromarketing Insights to Boost Engagement and Profitability, it gives a fascinating insight into the relationship between Neuropsychology and Graphic Design.

Graphic design is more than simply coming up with a picture that looks nice, there is a lot of research and time spent planning these designs if you want the job done properly, even the word ‘design’ according to the Design Council, simply means ‘to plan’. Planning takes work, it takes an array of disciplines in order to achieve simplicity and understanding based on a group of people you have most likely never met, a clients customers, we use different research methodologies to achieve this, for example, persona research, to find out what someone’s client enjoys and dislikes, their social standing, a history or even if they have a family, all this information tells us who this group of people are likely to be, and therefore it will influence the decisions we make as designers.

Why is research methodology relevant to Neuropsychology?
Once we have all the research, we need to then interpret the data and formulate hypothesis as to what your client’s audience wants to see that will persuade them to take the action you want them to take, if it was a poster, for example, the action might be to encourage attendance to an event. Anyone who calls themselves a graphic designer must know essential basic information around psychology, it gives us groundings in such things ‘colour theory’ and the ‘rule of thirds’ probably two theories outside of graphic designers that non-graphic designers are most aware of, although they may not know the actual theories or what the purpose is, in terms of colour theory, for example, depending on culture, the colour red might mean passion, thereby invoking an emotional response to the colour to create an ‘attachment’ to the content you are viewing. Neuropsychology, on the other hand, relies somewhat upon of initial reaction, it relies on the thoughts and feelings you do not even know you are having, depending on the area of the brain that has been activated to respond.

Neuropsychology, the theory
From what I understand a part of neuropsychology, the part I will talk about is regarding the upper and lower portions of the brain. The lower brain, I shall call the ‘reactionary’ brain, it is the one that controls instant emotional responses like fight or flight, you could even call it the Neanderthal brain, the upper brain is what I will refer to as the ‘thinking’ brain and for the moment, we are not interested in the thinking brain.

The ‘reactionary’ brain and design
If you can imagine a time when our higher brain functions were not developed and all we had were our wits, you would understand that although we have developed an understanding of the world around us, we still react in some very silly ways to some very silly things, things like phobias for example, but what I want to talk about is even deeper than that, beyond irrational fear, to a fear that could never be controlled by your higher functions… Fear of the Unknown. When we are faced with something new and different, we find ourselves being very cautious, it is not something you can control, it is literally human nature and once we understand this, it makes us better designers.

Relationship between Neuropsychology and Graphic Design
When we were neanderthals we would run away from anything new or different, it was a matter of survival, today however it is not generally used for survival it is used to make simple choices, choices where change could result in some kind of risk. If you are in a supermarket and you see washing powder aligned along the aisle, you know the brand you like and trust and head straight for it, but suddenly you stop, you stop because you notice another bottle, on that looks completely different to the type of bottles you have seen before, maybe you are intrigued, or maybe you simply walk on by, to head straight to the brand you always buy, even though the claim in the tv advert was that this washing powder was the best ever made, the cheapest and agreed to be the best, you still have a high chance of walking away. The reason you would simply pick up your usual brand is that you are sceptical about the claims, it looks ‘too good to be true’ you want to hold out for some social proof before you commit to buying a new brand. Graphic designers can take that lower brain reaction and turn it into a positive reaction instead by for example making the bottle more familiar, less change equals less chance of an automatic reaction, people are comfortable with familiar things.

A graphic designers real world example
When something heads towards you, your lower brain is telling you to back away for fear of being hit, when you create an image and the subject in the picture is pointing at you, your reaction is to back away. If on the other hand, you create an image where something is in the distance, you tend to get closer to the screen, the ‘fear’ is not there, so the next time you are creating an image, consider how in the real world you might react if you saw it for the first time.