First of all, what is visual design? Like graphic design, it focuses on the aesthetics but is more concerned with web design and its user interface.
Visual design is often associated with the broader concept of visual communication. It is how you relay your message to target audiences using visual elements such as pictures and graphics.
What comes into play are principles and elements of design that you utilize to improve the look and feel of your website. The purpose is to attract visitors’ attention and engage them.
The effective use of lines, colors, shapes, balance, contrast, emphasis, and others as well as careful placement of text, images and other content in your website can do wonders. It can even result in a positive company bottom line.
There are several reasons why visual design is important to your business. We’ll go through the most important ones.
We Are All Visual People
People remember pictures but struggle to retain text. While sight is our supreme sense the truth is we’re inefficient when it comes to reading. In fact, one study disclosed that people only remember 10% of information after three days but remembers 65% of information if it has a picture.
What does this tell us? People – consumers and users – are extremely good at recalling images. Come to think of it, people just need to see the towering sign of twin connected golden arches to know there’s a great fast food around.
So follow the cue. On your website, put in your logo together with company colors or mascot if you have one. Fill up your banner page with a picture of your best product or smiling pictures of satisfied customers.
When people get hooked by pictures, they are more likely to read the text and learn what your site has to offer and what your business is all about.
First Impression Counts
Consider these findings and you’ll see why first impression is vital:
- It takes 50 milliseconds for users to make an initial opinion about your website which determines whether they will leave or stay. (doi.org Behavior and IT study)
- In 17 to 50 milliseconds, users can form an aesthetic judgment of your website. It’s faster than the eye can blink at 100 to 400 ms. (Google research)
- 94% of first impressions are related to design. (UK design and content study)
A Missouri University eye-tracking study found out where users spend their crucial seconds when visiting a website for the first time:
- Logo - 6.48 seconds
- Navigation menu - 6.44 seconds
- Search box – 6+ seconds
- Main image - 5.94 seconds
- Written content - 5.59 seconds
- Footer - 5.25 seconds
First impression is greatly influenced by various design factors. These include the use of images, colors, font size and type, and intuitive navigation. Use them well in your website’s visual design. You only have seconds to keep your visitors interested.
Of course, be ready with that logo. If you don’t have any logo yet, no need to worry. You’ve got here the number one logo maker in LOGO.com.
Boost Brand And Image
Visual design helps you develop a visual identity which in turn helps you reinforce your brand. What then are the visual identifiers that you must carry in your website to boost brand and image?
There are four primary mechanisms of visual identity – logo, images, typography, and color. Your website must be visually designed to make these different components unified and working together.
There must be careful consideration on how you design your logo. Remember, a logo is a big part of brand identity. Every element in it – the font, imagery, text – affects how your brand is perceived.
Whether you DIY or outsource, it is best to follow this ultimate guide on how to design a logo so that the outcome is what you envisioned.
The key to brand and identity is consistency. Below are some ways to do it:
- Carry your logo everywhere.
- Adopt your corporate colors throughout.
- Maintain the same set of fonts.
- Use images and graphics that are associated with your business.
- Apply the same familiar layout that is straightforward to navigate.
Then utilize all those components continually across all your digital platforms (website, online store, and social media) as well as physical assets (products, packaging, printed materials, etc).
Develop Trust And Goodwill
Do you recall the importance of first impression? You have just moments to capture your visitors and engage them.
A research study reported that 55% of visitors stayed no more than 15 seconds actively on a page. In that case you better make sure to have the requisites to hook them and make them stay longer. On top of your checklist should be good design and great content.
In those critical seconds, first time visitors would not have even read anything yet. But your visuals and graphics would already have made an impression.
You may come across as having invested enough time and effort to make your website look professional and pleasing. The power of carefully placed design elements can hold and lead viewers, encouraging them to further explore your site.
A good website design builds credibility for your business. A Stanford web credibility research revealed that a whooping 75% of users assessed a company’s credibility according to the design of its website. Take heed!
You know by now that words alone aren’t the most efficient way to communicate. Visual communication is the way. Why? The Visual Teaching Alliance pointed out the following:
- Information received by the brain is 90% visual.
- Visuals are processed by the brain 60,000x faster compared to text.
- Up to 36,000 visual messages every hour are registered by human eyes.
You’ve seen the trend in visual communication and may even be using them now in relaying messages and information to your audience.
They are bite-sized platforms that are fresh, professional-looking, and filled with graphics. Data is crunched and visualized, and information is easily absorbed and understood. Visual design simplifies and enhances communication.
Stand Out From The Crowd
There are 1.89 billion websites right now, although only around 200 million are active. While not all of these are your competitors, without doubt, you’re still looking at a substantial number to hurdle.
It is a crowded space for anyone’s niche. If you’re talking about inching up in the rankings, there are tested SEO and Web marketing techniques for that. However, it’s something of a long-term endeavor to achieve desired results.
What you can do right now is go the visual design route – redesign your website if you already have one, or start with a clean slate. Whichever your approach, do keep these in mind:
- Aim to have a balanced design.
- Use grids to help you come up with a clean and organized layout.
- Stick with corporate colors and, if you must, add just one or two complementary colors.
- Unify design elements; don’t let anything look like it’s out of place. Sure, you may be noticed but for the wrong reason.
- Use graphics and images to full effect by applying the design principles of hierarchy and emphasis.
The point is to grab the attention of anybody who happens to come across your website. A visitor may just take a glance – that is your opening. A well-designed website will rise above others and most likely get a second look.
Gain New Customers
When somebody says you have a “good website” don’t pop the champagne yet. It is subjective – others may like it while others may not.
From a business perspective, a good website is one that converts and design has a lot to do with it.
In a HubSpot survey, people were asked which element is most important for a business to include in its website. Below are the answers:
Meanwhile, Entrepreneur.com lists some other things people want to know from your website, such as:
- What is unique about your business?
- What does your company offer?
- Is your site easy to use and navigate?
- Does it have easy directions on processes?
- Is there a distinctive call to action?
Potential customers want to know if your company is legitimate, if your offerings are real, and where to reach you just in case.
Your web design will dictate where you will place all these important elements and components that visitors look for. Of course, always keep your site welcoming and user-friendly.
A carefully planned and methodically designed website makes it easy for visitors to convert and become paying customers.
Web visitors, whether they admit it or not, are impatient. Well, you and I included. Users do not actually read web pages; they just scan the content – images, headers, and graphics.
Once they find something interesting in those few seconds or milliseconds (as we’ve learned earlier), that’s the time they read. All the technology that enables you to put your live message and content on your website is complex. So don’t make that front end more complicated.
Visual design helps make your content simple, easy to digest, and user-friendly. It will also guide your layout and typography. Content is king, which is why it’s crucial that your web design supports it.
Here are some ways to optimize website content:
- Break down blocks of text into smaller pieces such as bullets or lists.
- Be generous with white spaces; they eliminate clutter and give the eye places to rest.
- Arrange content in such a way as to provide intuitive navigation.
- Apply spatial pathways to guide the eye to move along pieces of content.
- Focus visitors’ attention by highlighting important words or phrases.
Again credibility, consistency, and simplicity in coming out with good design and good content.
Presentations are narratives designed to tell your story in visual form. As the art of storytelling, presentations are there to inform, educate, inspire, persuade, instruct, and entertain.
Whether for pitches, meetings, webinars, conferences, or online classes, it is important that presentations provide a compelling narrative.
It was reported from a Venngage survey of 400 conference speakers that 84.3% of them create presentations that are highly visual. However, graphics and visuals are but components of the narrative structure.
Visuals do not make a poor story good. They are there to reinforce a narrative. So lay down a good story first with a central message. Different industries may have different approaches to crafting their narratives. Still there’s a basic structure that is followed:
- Beginning – the problem or “why.”
- Middle – options and solutions.
- End – expected results and comparison of existing situations then and now.
Others follow an essay or thesis outline such as having supporting points, summary, hypothesis, and conclusion. Whichever way you go, be sure to have a good story framework from which you’ll work on your design.
As far as your design goes, the most common medium for presentations are slides. When creating these, bear in mind the following:
- Limit each slide to a few keywords.
- Let pictures and graphics do the talking – more visuals, less text.
- Don’t clutter a slide with statistics; spread them out to different slides.
- Simplify concepts by using attractive icons and pleasing colors.
- Visualize data through charts and graphs.
- Choose the best photos that represent the message or idea.
- Apply design principles of balance, simplicity, and emphasis.
Unite The Workforce
Visual design or the broader visual communication can be used to unite and engage employees. It is important for employees that they are able to trust and feel proud of their organization. This can be done right after a new worker is hired and during the employee onboarding process.
A company culture that values professionalism, employee development, and transparency, among others, are more likely to have a committed and loyal workforce.
The same effort that you do to improve communication with external audiences can be applied internally in your organization. Take for example your well-designed website – it’s something that employees can all be proud of.
And they’d be prouder if you took time to get their feedback and applied their helpful suggestions to improve the website, both in looks and content.
It boils down to having a corporate visual design strategy. While the design department takes the lead, they don’t have the exclusive pool of ideas. For all you know, someone from HR or Finance might have some “Eureka” moments.
Here are some tips to become a visual organization:
- Encourage company-wide design collaboration and contribution
- Include visual training programs in company seminars or orientations.
- Employee handbooks and other internal materials should carry the feel and look of your brand.
- Use visual elements – images, graphics, icons, illustrations – in all your employee-directed media so they can easily be understood.
A design-centric company is able to unite the organization in achieving its goals and even improve its bottom line. As a matter of fact, a McKinsey report disclosed that companies which value design exceed industry average growth by 2 to 1.
What Are The Principals Of Design?
When you see a good design, you know it’s good because it’s pleasing to the eye. It's like that when using a logo maker. We all have different tastes when it comes to art and beauty, which makes creating a good design tricky. Fortunately there are some general guidelines that you can follow to create beauty.
Design is a form of art that has a clear, specific purpose. Design work needs to draw attention to a central point of focus, and all the elements in the design must work together to deliver a clear message to the audience.
Many people think that design is simply about creativity. While to some extent, that’s true, a good designer will follow basic rules to help guide the creative mind towards harmony and beauty in their designs. These “rules” are called Design Principles and, when used, can help prevent a design from appearing crowded, muddled, or unfinished. These rules, or suggestions, can help a designer create a clear, stable design that is effective in delivering their message to the audience.
Of course, there are always exceptions! Some groundbreaking designs ignore rules and are still considered design masterpieces.
Even if they ignore some principles, they make sure that all the elements have a clear purpose and they guide the eye throughout the design to convey the right message.
All the items are in harmony and move together to tell the real story even if they seem random at first.
Here are seven design principles to follow as a good design is a layout of a creative mind guided by some strong design principles:
Seven design principles
Emphasis is the design principle that catches the attention of the audience. It’s the “bang” of the design and can be obtained through sharp contrast with the rest of the design, but without losing the unity of the whole work.
Designers can draw attention to a particular element from their entire design using any or all of the following:
The focal point depends on what is essential for the designer. It can be a brand, an event, a certain date, or a very distinctive element. Before even beginning to work, a designer can try to picture the work as a whole and then decide where the emphasis should be. The focal point is the starting point of the story, and the main thing the viewer's eye notices.
2. Balance and alignment
Design is art with a purpose, with each element having a specific weight created by color, size, or texture. Balance is the distribution of the design elements, colors, texture, or space throughout the whole work. When a design is balanced it is stable and easy to follow.
The balance of designs can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance means that the elements are similar on both sides of the design, whereas asymmetrical balance means the sides are different (but still in harmony with each other).
Out of the box designs use something called Radial Balance, where similar elements are arranged around a central point. Designs should have a balance, but the type used depends entirely on the message and the story the designer needs to get across. Symmetrically balanced designs are beautiful and pleasing, but they can sometimes seem dull. Asymmetry can create unique and daring designs, but it is a more dangerous, or risky, approach if not pulled off successfully.
Contrast is what makes a design pop out and draws the audience to a specific element. Contrast is an extremely important design principle as it’s the one that sticks in the viewer’s mind for a long time. There are a variety of elements designers use to create contrast and here are just a few:
Contrasts create sections in your designs and differentiate the elements. One of the most common contrasts is created by using fonts.
Great designers use one or two strong fonts in different weights to prevent their message from being diluted throughout the design. Keep in mind, however, that the background and other elements in the design need to be in harmony to make the message readable.
Repetition works with patterns to make the design look more active while offering harmony and unity of the work. Patterns strengthen the design by creating a distinctive motif that sticks to the audience's mind. Also, the brand identity is obtained through repetition.
Proportion is the sense of harmony and unity offered by a design in which all the elements interact well with each other. Designers play with sizes, mass, and number of items to draw attention without losing sight of the balance of the whole work.
They usually approach the design in sections and then balance the entire composition. Proportion can be obtained if all the elements are well sized and placed with a determined purpose.
It should also emerge organically if the design has the correct alignment, balance, and contrast.
Movement is the path the audience’s eye takes through the design to read the story. There are many things you can use to draw attention to focal points - lines, edges, and shapes, for example.
Designers control the elements to guide the eye from one point to another in the right order, so that their message comes across.
Items too large or too bold can make it so the eye gets “stuck” in one place, and dilutes the message of the entire work. Harmony and balance are essential to achieve the correct movement.
7. White Space
So far we’ve seen that the other principles refer to adding elements to the design. The white space deals with something you don’t add.
It means the empty space around the design elements, and it can often make or break a composition. The purpose of the white space is to create hierarchy and organisation.
All the elements of a design are moving parts that tell a story. The designer’s job is to tell this story creatively utilising and combining these design principles.
How A Dedicated Design Department Can Help Your Business
The design process is much more than creating visuals and adapting to trendy aesthetics. In its most real sense, designing includes all the nuances of creation, planning, and problem-solving.
This is why every business must consider design as a way to improve the user experience directly.
The best part about the designing process is that it proves useful for each stage of a business. If you are a startup, website designing will help you make the perfect first impression on your target audience.
Similarly, if you are a well-established brand, rethinking your outlook on design through modifications in graphics or properties can ensure there is a sync between your mission statement and brand image.
What Is Business Design?
Business design or the design of the business is nothing but an approach to innovation. When business leaders apply design thinking strategically and practically, a unique design for that business comes into existence.
If you're anything like me, you're probably clueless about design thinking or encapsulating the design process. So what is design? Designing includes all the concepts, processes, and outcomes that arise from constructing an object or system.
Simply put, anything that adds value to your business and its related stakeholders most certainly holds the principles of design within it.
Here are a few examples of what design means for a business: a blueprint for your office, your company logo, a project roadmap, daily workflows, product prototypes, and feedback loops.
So design can mean anything from a simple outline of a task you are working on to a more structured Key Performance Indicator (KPI) framework. As long as you're building something with your business, you design at every step, from the ground up. For any business to be successful and add value to its customers and the industry, its design value must be strengthened to create more meaningful human-centred working methodologies.
How Can Design Help Your Business Perform Better?
Since the design aims to bring innovation to life, it can help turn your ideas into suitable products for the market. Additionally, you can use design principles to make your business processes more effective and improve your sales and marketing strategies.
Here are seven benefits your business can gain by incorporating design into your operational activities:
1. Improved product life cycle
A product is a business's life-line. If your product doesn't work, no cold calls, glitzy marketing campaigns, or investors can save your business. When you pay attention to your product and what it can be leveraged for, it will become clear that design is central to its life cycle.
For your business to be relevant, the product must be high on design value right from its conception to the packaging to create a lasting first impression. Leading companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have understood that design thinking is necessary to optimize product innovation.
A long product life cycle is only attainable when your product's design makes some part of the customer's life easier. Product design revolves around providing solutions and visualizing the needs of your consumer.
2. Increased sales
Good design also plays an essential role in how many customers you can convert through your sales pitches, innovation, and consumer reach. As the sales cycle continues to become complicated, providing a personalized experience must be at the forefront of every sales pitch.
Focus on the smallest of things, customize communications using email templates, create visually appealing brochures, and embrace business design into the sales discovery process.
Businesses that perceive issues in isolation and without empathizing with the customer's requirements end up wasting time and money investing in unqualified sales leads. For example, Salesforce achieved 100% revenue growth by incorporating design principles into its selling process.
Prepare your sales team with relevant information about the product, such as key features, use cases, and benefits offered to the customer for better sales performance.
3. Higher returns on marketing
Business design always revolves around the user. Many businesses fail to notice that design planning can make the content look good and stand out and lead to increased marketing ROI with fewer efforts.
Design in marketing does not just mean running your regular marketing campaigns with glamorous edited images; it is entirely consumer-centric. Intense design usage in your marketing activities can help target the right audience without spending money on a different marketing strategy.
4. Stronger customer relationships
Regardless of what your product or service is, focusing on user-friendly design is necessary. When your customers can find an easy-to-navigate call to action (CTA) or enjoy the colour scheme, they are more likely to continue using your product. Better design attracts more usage, which in turn leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention.
5. Better social engagement
Social media runs on aesthetics and thoughtful, creative visuals. For a business to be successful online, it's essential to invest in a good design team. Creating engaging posts for social platforms includes several design elements.
Some of these are:
- Size and Scale
When creating images or infographics, the part of the business design you will want to focus on is graphic designing. Effective graphic design can have large and positive impacts on brand recognition and brand association.
When you can engage your audience through visuals more than lengthy product descriptions, it becomes easier for them to absorb the content you are putting out.
Once you have curated a solid graphic for your social channels, map out your design pipelines in the same way that you would create an editorial calendar. Keep handy design references to understand what kind of designs get the most engagement. Visual stimuli are the number one reason for the coveted 'million likes and followers.' Don't believe me? Ask Twitter.
6. Refined business USP
When you look at a cup with anything resembling a mermaid, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Starbucks! Now in the most real sense, a mermaid has nothing to do with a cup of coffee. But that particular design is etched in your head to symbolize a brand and its unique selling point. In this case, and many others, the design, be it the logo, or a concept, becomes an added USP for the business.
A robust design can become more than just a part of a campaign or a slogan. It can virtually back your claims to what makes you truly unique and different from your competitors. If you're a small business, investing time and energy into creating a good design plan can essentially provide more value to customers preventing them from swaying to alternatives.
7. Sustained business relevance
Consumer behaviour and preferences can change overnight. To best cope with the continually evolving purchasing patterns and customer journeys, it helps to have something to rely on. Any business that has a design department can capitalize on shifting trends.
Think about it; you can't only change your entire product because it doesn't fit into the existing trends. By changing your brand design to keep up with world happenings, you can ensure that your business is viewed as relevant and relatable.
What Designers Should Be Part Of Your Design Department?
Great, you've decided to invest more time and effort into a full-fledged design department for your business. It is essential to understand why design can benefit you immensely.
It is equally or somewhat more necessary to build a design department with designers who can follow through with your vision.
Design is a vast field; it consists of varying niches such as product, user interface, fashion, etc. Several types of designers are adept at specific design work.
It can be confusing and challenging to navigate through the niches without understanding the actual work involved.
These are the four types of designers you should hire for your business design department:
Since a product is at the core of any business' operations, a product designer is the first designer you should hire. Most product designers can help you with product-user interfaces (UI), user experience design (UX), programming, and problem-solving.
They typically receive inputs and work with the product management team to understand the specific product's problem. While their primary concern rests in visuals, product designers can often build up their data architecture and system design.
User experience (UX) designer
Once your product is created, you must turn your attention to optimizing it for your users. A UX designer will most definitely do that for you.
UX designers extensively focus on customer satisfaction and guarantee that your product can meet the user's specific needs. As is apparent, they enhance user experience to help your business refine the product's usability and accessibility.
To achieve this, UX designers start at the basics of the design thinking process, right from researching what works and what does not, forming a concrete and usable idea, and finally, ensuring that the concept is driven by how its customer will use it.
For most UX designers, the customer's mindset is their mindset and involves much more than just user testing and prototyping.
User interface (UI) designer
If you are confused about how a UX and UI designer differ from one another, here is a quick tip: A UX designer is in charge of the overall product-user interaction, whereas a UI designer is responsible for creating the interface the user can interact with your product.
User interface designers focus on two things:
- Visual appeal
- Ease of use
How many times have you deleted an app or clicked another website simply because the interface didn't look good enough or was difficult to navigate through?
All visual elements such as understanding user touch-points and their interactive movements are part of UI design. Furthermore, making sure that the user can easily tap a button (online shopping) or swipe through pictures (Instagram) are all responsibilities of a user interface designer. UI designers are also the ones who make the user experience sophisticated through visual elements such as dashboards or VR interfaces.
- Architectural Designer
The pandemic has shifted the conventional views of what an office or even a small cubicle should look like. The future of work and workplaces is going to be all about the principles of design and innovation. An architectural designer is not just a person who lays-out building and office plans.
Architectural designers are different from architects in that they are responsible for designing drawings and models based on the concepts decided by the architect. They produce sketches and renderings based on specific design forms and compile the data in different layouts such as colour boards.
Although they may not have the same skills in bringing out the fundamental idea, architectural designers have thorough knowledge about design, building, and construction and have an eye for detail.
If you're looking to revamp your office spaces, invest in an architectural designer to help you plan out the nitty-gritty of the building process.
Design thinking is the way forward.
Design is most easily one of the most important factors when building a business and its brand. It's a fundamental part of all business activities: product research, market surveys, and even boosting customer satisfaction.
Your business design is what will truly set you apart from your competition and eventually increase growth and revenue. Simultaneously, not investing enough time and money into strategic design thinking can result in an unsuccessful business.
We have been taught to carry a growth and entrepreneurial mindset when running a business. Now it’s time to have a visual attitude.
All that we’ve tackled in this post point to the paramount importance of visual design for your business especially in today’s highly competitive and digital environment. You’d be left behind if you don’t innovate and level-up your design.
This is why you need all the tools and strategies to get your business noticed and drive as many visitors to your website.
Exciting visual design coupled with absorbing content have been proven to be powerful attractions. Use them to your advantage.
About the author:
Jun Anover is senior content producer at Colorcinch. His background in art, design, and photography helps him craft informative articles and creative content pieces on these subjects.
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