The importance of Visual Design

We don’t just draw, we enhance user engagement, influence human emotion, and build trust.

Often spoken about, rarely understood – visual design and its multitude of disciplines, are an after-thought in the UX design process. 

As organisations begin to adopt user experience at the forefront of new product design, understanding how visual design impacts the user’s experience is critical to achieve exceptional outcomes.

It was only recently that I stumbled upon an article written by a Banking VP of Digital Experiences. The writer expressed views on what he considered was ‘Not User Experience’. He went on to say that Visual Design was simply a focus on “layouts, colours and illustrations to offer the desired branding, personality, and an overall aesthetically pleasing experience “. 

So lets debunk the myth of Visual Design by exploring the importance of aesthetics in user experience.

We’ll also take a look at ways to achieve great design, and discover why collaboration is critical to success.

Why are aesthetics so important?

Let’s take a step back and consider human psychology for a second. We as humans are shaped by how we feel, see and communicate, and as such our first impressions (which we form in the first 7 seconds), set our expectations of future interactions. Therefore bad design will inherently create negative feelings towards a product or service, adversely affecting the overall users experience. 

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – Will Rogers –

It’s the responsibility of the visual designer to translate UX outcomes through the use of space, colour, typography, iconography, photography (to mention a few). 

By carefully balancing VD and UX, we enhance user engagement, influence human emotion and develop user trust.

We can argue that the visual layer can be one of the most powerful elements in creating memorable experiences. This is especially true when paired with compelling user research and well driven human centred design. After all, the look and feel is the first impression a user has of your product. 

Achieving great design

Discover the challenge

Request style-guides and branding documents before the design process begins. It’s often more complicated to produce good design when you discover that these documents do not exist further down the line.

Understand your target audience

Design is subjective, so it’s important to understand the user demographic. Design with purpose and users in mind. 

Start the process early

Explore design options, create mood boards, collaborate with stakeholders and end users. Be involved in all stages of the project life-cycle.

Have creative reasoning

It’s easier to have compelling conversations when the design has a well thought out story. Whilst gut feelings can lead to creative success, ensure that your decision making is backed with sound theory and good research. Don’t make decisions based on “It looks good”.

User Experience – The house that homes multiple discipline

Let’s remember that when we speak about User Experience, we are in fact referencing the coming together of multiple specialist disciplines; Anthropologies, Researchers, Testers, User Experience Designers, Visual Designers and many more. We all share the same focus around human centre design. We design with users in mind. 

Collaboration is critical to achieve the best user experience. It’s not achieved by just one discipline or another, but the collective thoughts and knowledge of each skilled discipline. To attempt to de-couple visual design from the user experience would be a huge mistake. 

Work in a collaborative manor, with the right knowledge and skills accessible at the right phases of the project life-cycle.

This will ensure that you reap the rewards for your users and your business.