Graphics Design Aesthetics and function

Graphics design is a field which is now present in almost every digital sphere. Here are some tips to improve your aesthetic design to establish your brand identity.

Graphics Design Aesthetics and function

This article is about understanding what is aesthetic design and its importance for the perception of usability. Humans like pretty and shiny design; they desire it much more than functional one.

We enjoy looking and using aesthetically pleasing design, because it satisfies our senses, it gives us pleasure.

Designers tend to think of aesthetics as the visuals of the design. However, aesthetic design consists of more elements than just how it looks.

What is aesthetic design?

There is a whole branch of philosophy exploring aesthetics. Let’s scratch the surface of the Aesthetics field and learn how it relates to our design work.

There is a phenomenon that social psychologists call “the halo effect”. It means humans tend to assume that good-looking people have other positive qualities aside from their looks.

The same is valid for product design. Good looking products and user interface are perceived as more valuable and having more qualities.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Aesthetics are in all our senses, not just the sight. Aesthetic design is a 4D experience. Product designers, who are doing actual physical products are aware of that.

With the emergence of VR and AR technologies it becomes more important for digital designers to consider the 4D experience too.

Why aesthetic design matters?

Not long ago user were expecting only functional and usable products when they were buying. Today, users expectations have evolved together with the design field.

People expect usability by default and are seeking products that are more than functional and usable. We want to experience pleasure, to stimulate our senses. We want the products we use to evoke positive emotion in us. Aesthetic design is crucial to satisfy these needs.

We all judge the book by its cover. The better the book cover the more we believe the content is better. This is phenomenon called “Aesthetic-usability”. Beautiful products/objects are perceived as easier to use and more valuable than ugly ones. Even if it is not true!

This phenomenon is especially valid when the products compared are equal in functionality and ease of use. The better looking product will win over the users swiftly.

Aesthetically pleasing designs are bringing up positive attitude in the users. It makes them care more about the product. Aesthetic design makes people more loyal of the brand and tolerant toward mistakes or failures. Imagine all the apple fans.

Early impressions of a product design matter! Aesthetic design is influencing how people think and feel. It influences how much pleasure we feel from the product. Aesthetic design affects our long-term attitude about products and even people.

Aesthetic design matters not only to make the first impression, but also to keep strengthening the bond with the user. The design of our products needs to be aesthetically pleasing consistently across the whole product and user journey.

Balancing aesthetics and usability

There are cases where we need to sacrifice aesthetics, due to different limitations depending on the context. Other times aesthetics could dominate the usability aspect.

Aesthetics and usability in balance

This is what most of the cases as Designers we should strive to achieve in our designs. There are many good examples from smart phones and apps to computer chairs that look and feel good, but also have the desired usability.

Aesthetics over usability

Some times products have dominating aesthetics that are not supported by good usability and ergonomics. This is mostly visible in the fashion industry.

Shoes made to look nice and attractive, while at the same time destroying the feet of the user. This demonstrates clearly how humans can be seduced by aesthetic design and even at the price of their health.

Usability over aesthetics

Other times usability must be in focus no matter what. Equipment designed for emergency situations, where people cognition is compromised. In this cases, aesthetics are with low priority. When designing for such cases there are a lot of constraints from different authorities and requirements. Using Hick’s law for quick decision making can help you make the better design decisions.

Final thoughts

First impression matters. When we perceive beauty with more of our senses we feel deeper pleasure from the design. Aesthetic design gives users pleasure from the start! It makes them form a bond with the design, bond that goes beyond the initial interaction.

Aesthetic design is perceived as more friendly, usable and valuable.