Often when clients challenge a design deliverable, it’s common to hear it come in the form of saying “design is subjective,” and then quietly open the door to insert their personal opinions for design changes over expertise. Design challenge discussions are good conversations to have though, and they should be welcomed; but it’s in these moments when you, being the design expert, should be ready to educate about your design reasoning, with good quality and understandable reasoning. If you’re confident that your design can deliver the positive results desired, then there should be confident reasoning to support this direction.
While it’s true that design can be interpreted differently by everyone, it’s important to understand that when it comes to designing something for a target audience segment you don’t want to leave room for much interpretation.—Your design has a job to do.
When you’re designing a company website, a digital ad, a print piece, a product, or anything reflective of a brand, you’re not designing an art piece to display in a museum for viewers to ponder in thought. You’re designing with intention. You’re designing something for a specific audience to inform them, persuade them, entertain them, or solve a specific problem for them. You want to be 100% sure that your design allows for information to be understood clearly, that your call-to-action is taken, or that your product just plain works.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”Steve Jobs
Psychology Shapes Design
As a designer you need to be able to defend your design. For hypothetical example:
- You didn’t use the color blue as the primary color of the website design for a bank because you think it’s a nice color. You chose it to match the viewers psychology of associating the color blue with feelings of security and confidence.
- You didn’t make the corners of box elements in the brochure design rounded because you prefer it. You chose it because it’s reflective of the rounded shape of the company logo, and it portrays a more inclusive tone instead that of using sharp corners.
- You don’t have a bunch of white space in the magazine ad because you ran out of content to include. You intentionally have a lot of white space in order to make content easier to skim and use psychology to give the impression of being expensive.
Design is largely about psychology, and few people are aware of this because we walk around not understanding the habits of our own human behaviors. Colors, spatial relationships, shapes, words, photos, illustrations and other design elements influence human emotions which influences the decisions we make. These influences happen subconsciously. If you’re a quality designer, no design is randomly put together, and no personal taste influences it.
Your Design Has a Job to Do
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: design work is hard work. It’s serious work involving great strategy. Quality design is backed up by goals, research, data, psychology, and your expertise in understanding how to put all the pieces together effectively through design. If your design is subjective to being interpreted in too many different ways, you may need to go back to the drawing board to better understand your target audience and project goals.
There shouldn’t be any confusion about your design. It has a job to do.