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Everything You Need to Know About Neurodesign


As the field of Neuromarketing continues to evolve, we are starting to see more and more Neuro-esque terms popping up: Consumer neuroscience, Neurolaw, Neuroeconomics, Neurobusiness.

But what about Neurodesign? What is it? And why do you need to know about it?

While some of these other fields may be considered as jumping on the Neuro bandwagon, or so to speak, and not actually a wholly credible field, Neurodesign is an exciting new space that deserves your attention.

What is Neurodesign?

Neurodesign is a sub-field of the consumer neurosciences which applies research findings from psychology and the applied neurosciences to understanding how we respond to design and visuals of various kinds.

Neuroscientists have discovered a tremendous amount about how the visual systems of the brain work, and how these can be applied to help user experience experts, creatives, advertisers, designers and marketers (or anyone who creates images for work) optimise and increase the engagement and appeal of their design or product.

How Does Neurodesign Work?

Most Neurodesign principles focus on the the visual systems of the brain. How we perceive visual information and process it, in making decisions. The visual system of the brain processes and codes (de-codes) information through a cortical hierarchy, predominantly in the occipital lobe of the brain, before being distributed more widely to other areas of the brain.

Occasionally some visual information is pre-processed by deeper brain regions responsible for survival and emotional functioning, where decision making needs to happen very quickly. This does not mean that the brain's primary visual system is not utilised, it just means that deeper more basic brain systems need to process the information primarily and more rapidly for immediate decision making.

The hierarchical way in which the brain processes information is useful for design practitioners to understand as it may affect their overall strategy in creating a visual experience. As users and consumers of visual design (such as in advertising) are often bombarded by information and have limited attention spans, visual design features need to be optimised to maximise on visual salience and emotional effect, otherwise they are not likely to affect the user or consumer in an optimal way.

How to Optimise Neurodesign Principles

In order to optimise this let's take a look at the visual systems hierarchy of visual processing, with insights attached:

1. Colour

The first step happens in area V1 the primary visual reception area in the occipital lobe where only basic features are detected. As the brain receives visual information the first interpreted or perceived aspect is COLOUR.

It is recommended that Neurodesign experts understand how they use contrast and colour to draw attention. If this is not optimised the user/consumer may either feel uncomfortable or may lose attention quickly

2. Form

As we move up the visual hierarchy (areas V2-4) the visual system of the occipital lobe (as well as some systems that may be recruited from the temporal and parietal lobes) contribute further perception of the visual stimulus. Now form is interpreted, which includes: shape, orientation, texture, symmetry and size.

Sometimes letters and words are also perceived and represented within the visual system, but are interpreted by other brain systems in the temporal lobe, which takes longer.

It is useful for Neurodesign experts to understand that visual objects such as: iconography, logo’s (most of them), images are more quickly interpreted than words and maintain attention better as they use less cognitive/brain resources. It is also important when understanding this part of the occipital lobes processing of visual information, that too much visual stimuli and contrasted visual objects will slow the system and may greatly increase the likelihood for distraction.

There are optimal ways to test this through eye-tracking studies which need to examine both attention maps and gaze-paths. EEG may also be used to examine cognitive load, as to determine if there is cognitive overload (unique paradigms assessing occipital asymmetry have been developed to assess some peripheral features of this).

3. Perception and Meaning

Lastly there is area V5 of the occipital lobe and associated interconnected neural circuitry with other brain regions including the temporal, parietal and frontal lobes. This is where perception turns into meaning and where attribution begins.

The user/consumer makes meaning of their visual experiences. They may draw on previous memory or other meaning making system (such as culture, personal identification, attitudes, values etc..). It is at this point that Neurodesign experts assess the true and lasting impact of their visual design, to whether it provokes the right emotional response, maintains attention and engagement.

Here, the Neurodesign expert considers the intrinsic characteristics of their design and how these may appeal to the larger values of their target audience or consumer. Culture, gender, age and value systems would be considered in how elements of the visual design are created. This would also be determined, based on the extent to which the design needs to evoke meaning; as in the case with logo development for a brand.

If you want to learn more about this fascinating field, read Neuro Design by Darren Bridger: " Today, businesses of all sizes generate a great deal of creative graphic media and content, including websites, presentations, videos and social media posts. Most big companies, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Tesco and Google, now use neuroscience research and theories to optimise their digital content. Neuro Design opens up this new world of neuromarketing design theories and recommendations, and describes insights from the growing field of neuroaesthetics that will enable readers to enhance customer engagement with their website and boost profitability".

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