Illusions in design: how to take advantage of mind tricks

How do you use your viewers’ brains to your advantage? It is all a question of psychology and entering the mind of others. You have to understand how the brain perceives visuals in order to get the most benefit out of your design. In order to acquire that knowledge, you have to dig deep in those psychology books. To make it easier for you, we have here a couple of ways you can use mind tricks to your advantage when designing:

Did you notice it?

Illusions in design: how to take advantage of mind tricks | Did you notice it?

You might be left with the perception that the customer is paying attention to many items at once. Wrong! Sorry to burst your bubble, but it is hardly likely that people are focused on everything in your design. 

Our brain has the power to make us believe that we are taking in everything around us, however, we are really paying attention to a couple of focal points. This counts for your designs as well. In their book “Eyetracking Web Usability”, Nielsen and Pernice call this phenomenon ‘selective disregard’.

Do you always pay attention to posters out on the street? Not always, right? This is an example of selective disregard, you can see the poster, but you’re not really perceiving it. 

How to use it?
To really bring attention to an item in your design, you have to make it obvious. You need to be predictable with basic designs. In the sense that the customer has to be aware of what you want them to notice and pay attention to. You can easily bring attention to important elements of your design by putting them in bright colours, bold fonts or even adding movement to your design.

Visceral reactions

Illusions in design: how to take advantage of mind tricks | Visceral reactions

What’s your favourite colour? Why do you like it so much? It’s a bit difficult to answer the second question, right? You just like it. You are having a hard time explaining your choice because your favourite colour has to do with visceral reactions.

These are our innate almost animal-like instincts, which act on a subconscious level and much faster than conscious thought. This means that attention also depends on whether or not you are able to provoke a visceral reaction with your design.

How to use it?
In order to accomplish such a response in your target audience, you have to really put yourself in their shows and think about how to provoke their emotions.

Gestalt, what?

Illusions in design: how to take advantage of mind tricks | Gestalt what?

Gestalt psychology is a product of the Berlin School of experimental psychology. It delves into the ways that people perceive the world around them. There a couple of different principles of Gestalt, but we are going to mention just three: 

Proximity. This means that objects placed closer together in a design are perceived as one whole, rather than separate entities. 

How to use it?
You can make use of this principle to your benefit by subtly placing objects in a way that only the focal point pops up and all other information is seemingly a background of your design.

Closure. This principle holds that even if a design is not closed off in reality or it is simply made of arranged separate elements, our eye tends to look for a pattern. 

How to use it?
If the shoe fits, wear it! Take advantage of this little mind trick to make your designs appear coherent across different mediums. That way you’ll achieve the illusion of similarity.

It is very simple to trick the brain to find a similarity.

  • Use the same font
  • Use the same colours
  • Place objects in your designs in similar places. For example, if you’re doing a poster for an event, and you decide to have your text at the bottom, also put the text at the bottom of your flyers and banners. 
  • Use the same texture. In print terms, this means the same paper finish.

Continuity. This is the natural tendency of our eye to move from one object to the other, following the order of the design.

How to use it?
Try using this technique to structure the design and bring attention to the right elements. Creating continuity will result in harmonious designs, which will leave a pleasant feeling in the viewers. 

In design, it’s all about having fun. We hope you got inspired to create some impactful designs with these mind tricks. What are some other tricks of the trade you use? Leave us a comment down below.