The Psychology of Design: Win Customers with Reassuring Design

Comfort is crucial to your success in business.

Although business is usually viewed as rational and impersonal, your prospective customers’ comfort should always be top-of-mind.

People who are not comfortable will not do business with you.

This has always been true for people starting a business and those who have been in business for decades.

A global pandemic has ratcheted up the stakes. Helping your audience feel secure in their purchase decisions has become more vital than ever.

We recently wrote about how to update your brand messaging for the new normal. In that article, we emphasized the critical role reassurance would play in this new normal.

But, your brand messaging is only as effective as the visual design that supports the messaging.

So, let’s take a look at how you can use visual design to put your prospective customers at ease, win trust, and drive purchases.

1. Provide the right content.

The content on a product package, web design, or advertisement is one of the first design considerations you must nail down.

While we can’t plan your marketing campaigns for you, certain pieces of content always provide reassurance when present.

According to the experience analytics experts at ContentSquare,

When it comes to reassurance, three elements are essential for online retailers:

  1. Customer service number: Subtly placed in the header and at each stage of the checkout, a customer service number offers users the possibility to contact a representative at every moment. On a mobile website, it’s important to take advantage of the ability to call directly.

  2. FAQ allows users to find answers to common questions without the need to speak with a customer service representative. It is an excellent communication tool and reduces the load on customer service.

  3. Secure payment: a must that it is useful to remember! To reassure users, present the logos for accepted methods of payment from the cart page and make sure that security is optimal: secure https  protocol, secure server SSL padlock icon, etc.

The right content is about more than your business name or your logo. Figure out what information your potential customers need to know to feel secure in their purchase decision.  Then build that information into your design.

Every type of design has its own unique content needs. A website is naturally the most information-dense and requires secure payment info, while product packaging or signage can only fit so much.

So, prioritize the most important content for each type of design.

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2. Choose reassuring colors.

Color makes a huge impact on how people perceive everything.

As we previously explained:

According to a study examining the effect of color on sales, 92.6% of people surveyed by the CCI: Institute for Color Research said that color was the most important factor when purchasing products.

Another study showed that people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or thing within 90 seconds. That judgment was influenced, in 62%-90% of examples, by color alone.

Color is a critical influence on how we perceive the world.

Color captures attention and influences emotions.

This is why it’s essential to choose a color palette that decreases stress if you want your design to reassure prospective customers.

The right color for your business is established when you create a company logo. Other color decisions naturally flow from that initial choice as you develop a color palette for your visual brand identity.

As a general rule of thumb, shades of blue tend to be perceived as calming and trustworthy. Soft, warm colors often inspire feelings of emotional warmth or happiness. And, monochromatic palettes are more soothing than multicolor designs with high contrast.

But, as always, view these options through the lens of what is appropriate for your product, service, and brand.

For a detailed breakdown of color psychology, check out what color says about your business.

3. Create space and ease with your layout.

Overall design layout can cause feelings of tension or ease.

Chaotic placement of graphics and copy convey agitation and stress. So, avoid overly busy designs, loud patterns, or poorly balanced asymmetrical layouts.

To create a sense of peace and ease:

  • Use plenty of white space to give both graphics and text room to “breathe.”
  • Create a visual balance between graphics and text.
  • Remember that western audiences read from left to right. So place design elements accordingly, so it’s easy for your target market to find what they need.

Order, balance, open space, and logical flow foster relaxation in customers and potential customers. Prioritize these traits in your design layouts and branding to reassure viewers.

4. Support your message with smart line choices.

Lines are the most basic building blocks of design. And, as such, they often go unnoticed.

But, the quality of a line can communicate a lot of important information. Line weight, direction, and curve all convey different messages.

Here’s a quick guide to different line meanings:

  • Vertical lines – order, authority, and power
  • Horizontal lines – spaciousness, comfort, and stability
  • Diagonal lines – directional movement, energy, and action
  • Thin lines – fragility, flexibility, and elegance
  • Thick lines – strength, durability, and reliability
  • Curved lines – dynamism, softness, and flexibility
  • Straight lines – Order, structure, and predictability

Interested in the psychology of lines in design?

Read this in-depth analysis on how fonts, colors, shapes, and lines influence purchasing decisions.

Read More

Consider what types of lines will best communicate the message you want to share. Be sure to think about:

  1. the inherent meaning of the line types and
  2. your customer’s expectations for your product or service.

For instance, while thick horizontal lines generally communicate stability and comfort, they may not be the best choice for a product or service that relies on speedy execution. Your prospects will derive more comfort from lines that communicate speed if that’s what they are looking for from your business.

Choose line qualities that create visual ease but also align with your leads’ and customers’ expectations. Then let these lines define the overall framework of your design.

5. Choose intentional forms and shapes.

Two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional forms carry psychological implications in design.

Circles suggest inclusion, safety, and community. Triangles communicate directional movement, stability, or instability, depending on how they are oriented. Squares and rectangles convey order and reliability.

But, shapes and forms aren’t limited to the geometric staples we all know. There are also amorphous organic shapes and culturally-derived symbols.

Symbols take their meaning from the cultural context in which they exist – like five-pointed stars representing patriotism in the United States or bats representing good fortune in Chinese culture.

Amorphous shapes take their meaning from the lines used to form them. For instance, softly rounded shapes are more visually soothing than erratically pointed shapes.

To reassurance potential clients or customers, don’t choose arbitrary shapes or forms for your designs. Mindfully choose shapes that align with your product or service – and err on the side of those that naturally inspire relaxation, order, or reliability.

6. Pick easy-to-read fonts.

Hard-to-read typography creates stress.

People don’t want to struggle to read your website, product packaging, or signage.

Legible, brand-appropriate fonts reduce stress and support your reassuring messaging.

And, don’t forget to consider the overall appearance of the font. As we previously explained:

Fonts have a psychological impact on people. The emotion generated from font choice is directly tied into the shape of the letters and our psychological response to those shapes.

All typography is made up of lines and shapes.

Choose your fonts wisely. Build comfort by choosing psychologically appropriate fonts that are clear enough to read from a distance.

7. Tap into nostalgia.

If you’re looking for ways to give your customers warm, fuzzy feelings, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention the power of nostalgia.

David Ludden Ph.D. explains for Psychology Today,

…research shows that people engage in nostalgic reverie when they‚Äôre feeling low in an attempt to boost their mood and self-confidence.

Experimental evidence indicates that nostalgia is experienced as an overwhelmingly positive emotion. It has the effect of boosting one’s mood as well as increasing a sense of meaning in life.

Consider looking to the past if you want to win customers. This is especially evident in product design trends, as companies combine nostalgic design elements with modern technologies.

Many past design fads conjure up comfort, warmth, and fondness. Above all else, choose a style that will resonate with your audience.

What past design trends will your potential customers or clients find to be most comforting and relatable?

8. Proofread to catch errors.

Simple typos can undermine the most reassuring, persuasive, and effective design in the world.

Every letter in a design is relevant to the overall design.

The presence of errors implies that your business is incompetent and that you can’t be trusted to get things right.

That’s not a reassuring thought.

No one wants to trust their money to a business that screws things up.

So, just like you would invest time to proofread your business plan so that investors don’t lose confidence in your idea, you should invest time to proofread your designs.

Please don’t allow this obvious faux pas to make it into your website, package design, signage, email templates… or anywhere.

Proofread all of your designs for spelling, grammar, and brand voice before sending them off to the printers or publishing them online.

The heart of the matter…

Business is about building relationships.

Visual design has an important role to play in helping to build those relationships.

Without trust and a certain degree of comfort, people won’t buy your products or services.

Inspire comfort with your brand and confidence in your products or services by following the design tips we shared in this article.

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