Attractiveness Bias (Principles of Design #75)

Aug 04 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

People tend to see attractive people as more intelligent, competent, mortal and sociable than less attractive people. Thus, attractive people are seen more positively, receive more attention from the opposite sex, receive more affection from their mothers and receive more leniency from judges and juries. When everything else is equivalent, attractive people are more likely to be preferred in hiring and will earn more money in the same job. Most importantly, they tend to get more votes in elections. Read more »

No responses yet

Figure-Ground Relationship (Principles of Design #74)

May 29 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

Photo by Toby Harriman (source:

Figure-ground relationship is the design principle that any element is perceived either as an object of focus (figure) or as something else (ground). This is one of the Gestalt principles of perception, where perception focuses on a central element and others become undifferentiated in the background. This is true of other senses as well as vision (e.g., when you hear your name in a crowded party your focus switches from your current conversation to listening to another). Read more »

No responses yet

The Language of Colour

Jan 25 2017 Published by Neil Gains under book review

The Language of Colour is a short, readable and enjoyable introduction to visual communication and the semiotics of colour. Packed full of examples and exercises, Theo van Leeuwen moves from discussions of the meanings of individual colours and colour naming to a theory of how colours combine. The author argues that colour schemes and combinations are more important than the individual colours that comprise any combination.

Read more »

No responses yet

Principles of Design #72 – Readability

Sep 25 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Readability is the degree to which prose can be understood, determined by word length, word commonality, sentence length, number of clauses in a sentence and the number of syllables in the sentence. It is something that is often overlooked by designers and researchers, who often believe that more complex information requires complex presentation. This, of course, is bunkum. The principle of cognitive fluency teaches us that the easier something is to read the more readily it will be understood and the more likely it will be acted on. I write this as I am preparing for a client workshop on report writing where the number 1 principle is make everything as simple as possible (but no simpler as Einstein famously said). Read more »

No responses yet

Why Copying is Good for Creativity and Innovation

Jan 27 2016 Published by Neil Gains under book review

In Copy, Copy, Copy, Mark Earls argue that creativity in marketing (or anywhere else) is essentially about following the success of the theory of evolution outlined by Charles Darwin. Although the title of the book focuses on the copying part, the truth is that his central argument is that the essence of progress is “loose” copying, following the are of an idea but introducing variations into it. As Darwin demonstrates, if you do this enough times then eventually what emerges is superior to what came before.

The beauty of the book, which I highly recommend, is that in arguing the case for copying as a creative strategy, Mark Earls also manages to integrate a lot of behavioural thinking into the strategies and approaches he outlines and gets away from the arguments about which marketing strategies work best. He argues that the first question to ask is “What kind of thing is this?” and from that then find an appropriate strategy to address the specific challenge. Read more »

No responses yet

Principles of Design #68 – Uniform Connectedness

Jan 06 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Uniform connectedness is the principle that elements that are connected by uniform visual properties, the most common being colour, are seen as more related than other elements that do not share a visual property. This is a recent addition to the Gestalt principles of psychology, based on the perception of elements with uniform visual properties as a single group or chunk of information. A single matrix composed of dots is seen as columns where common regions, lines or colours connect the dots vertically, whereas it is send as rows when the common regions, lines or colours connect them horizontally. Read more »

No responses yet

The Social Psychology of Music

Oct 19 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

As the authors of The Social Psychology of Music point out, although music has many functions in human life, they are all essentially social. We use music to communicate, even when from very different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Music has the ability to trigger very powerful emotions., forming the basis of shared experiences. Music always conveys meaning, but that meaning is always situated in a social and cultural context. Meaning can never be free of context. Read more »

No responses yet

In Touch With Reality

Sep 06 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

“Seeing’s believing, but feeling’s the truth” – Thomas Fuller

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves” – Albert Einstein

I first wrote about the importance of the sense of touch five years ago (click here). At that time there was very little literature focusing on this important sense, but the last two years has seen the publication of at least four books about touch and related senses (see below) so it’s time to look again at touch. Touch is often neglected, especially by marketers, so let’s focus on why touch is such a powerful way to communicate with your customers. Read more »

No responses yet

Principles of Design #64 – Visibility

Jul 05 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

A basic principle of designing systems is that usability is greatly improved when there are easy to see feedback systems which show how to use the system along with its current status. This enables users to clearly see current status, possible future actions and the likely consequences of such actions. A very simple example is the common use of red lights to indicate when a system is receiving power. Other examples would be the illumination of certain parts of a system to indicate that they are available for use or the use of sound and touch to provide feedback when actions have been completed (for example, the clicking of a mouse, or the “whoosh” when something is placed in your computer trash can). Read more »

No responses yet

Why Brainy Thinking Needs More Than A Brain

Jul 03 2015 Published by Neil Gains under behavioural change

Hopefully by now most of us realise that the mind versus body problem is a quaint notion from the past, when we mistakenly believed that our minds floated in some ether disconnected from the real world. The idea of embodied cognition, that the brain is in fact only a central switching point for the central nervous system to send constant feedback on where we are and what we are doing.  We only learn and acquire knowledge through our body (via the senses), and we only experience the world, including emotions, feelings and experience, through this system. Read more »

No responses yet

Next »