Design tips

The psychology behind visual treatments

We have all been there, thinking whether to choose a green or an orange background color and what fonts would look best in a particular combination. The truth is that–unless we have 10 years of advertising experience behind, we probably wouldn't know which choice may result in people engaging with the ad the most.

We locate the logo and copy, and choose other elements of design according to some tips we found online – provided that we like the outcome.

We have talked about this topic from a different perspective in one of our earlier articles which compared graphic art to graphic design, generally arguing that the subjective choices might lead to creating an actual piece of art instead of an effective ad. The solution here is training a person to separate each design decision from their personal taste and base it solely on the user research and knowledge about the audience’s wants and needs.


It sounds pretty simple… in theory. Even highly experienced graphic designers enjoy adding a personal twist to their works, so inexperienced business owners are more likely to make their ads subjective than to eat turkey during the Thanksgiving (unless they are not American…). Moreover, the latter group wants to adjust the design to their liking – but is it that incorrect in the end?


Adjustable elements of a digital ad

With the development of artificial intelligence, digital ads are becoming data-driven. Computers can analyze complex information from thousands of ads, study consumers’ tastes and behavior and formulate scientifically-proven good practices for advertising design.

However, people do not want to take a machine's unbiased decision for granted.

think-outside-the-boxAs claimed by our own observations, clients like to make design inputs about certain repeatable ad components and these are: colors, fonts and asset placement. We do not specifically mention elements such as slogan or body here, because it is required to create them from scratch for each set of ads. By assets we understand pictures which are chosen by ad creators to best showcase a product or service. On top of that there are background images which serve as a complement for the main asset – not less important in the overall impression that the ad makes in the eyes of potential customers.


The room for user input

According to what is mentioned above, we all agree that elements such as CTA (call-to-action), slogan and the main body of an ad need to be specifically adjusted and therefore cannot be fully data-driven. However, modern technology allows marketers to generate digital ads automatically. The choice of colors, fonts and asset placement is based fully on data – and the aforementioned user-generated elements are added automatically by the computer. But what if the person creating ads had a different concept and wanted to change the result?


The question of what should get some room for adjustments is rather complex, but we do have some interesting insights here. Let’s imagine a simple digital ad made out of two images, a single solid color box used as a container for text (in a chosen font), plus a logo.

The first thing that clients usually wish to change is the colors. Because of certain characteristics that they convey, colors play an important role in the psychology of ads and lead to a particular way in which a viewer perceives an ad. For example, green brings associations to nature and wealth while red implies danger or prevention. Moreover, there are certain colors which are proven to work better for particular types of products and shoppers – pink suits casual fashion shopping and black is an effective addition to luxury goods.

However, when the color clashes with the product photo and it feels just right to change it, it can be done – in line with the basic color perception rules.

Fonts are another interesting aspect of this analysis. During school times, we all played with MS Word and its vast collection of fonts to make our paper look more serious, a little fancy or just to make it appear longer if there was a minimum number of pages to fulfill. Sorry to kill your artistic expression needs, but digital ads cannot serve as a font playground – this element should be carefully designed to serve the desired function. First and foremost, many brands have set their brand identity rules which include pre-determined fonts which are then used in their visual messaging. This strategy works only if consistency is kept across all digital channels to create a smooth brand experience for the audience. Secondly, people react to some fonts in particular ways, so the choice of a font should be based on the product and purpose of an ad. Let’s look at an example. Beauty products are usually advertised with fonts which are built out of slim and long lines – sometimes even decorative. Therefore, human eyes might not be interested in a beauty product advertised with a heavy, chunky font implying a different product category.

The subject of logo placement was described here and as the main element contributing to brand recognition, it should not be left as a fully subjective choice. According to research, increasing the logo area does not negatively influence users’ engagement with the ad, so the size of it can be adjusted according to the overall design. However, there are psychological rules implying best logo placement positions – based on target audience characteristics, main message of an ad and the product category. For example, men tend to care about the brand name more, so their purchase decisions are positively influenced when the logo is placed at the beginning. In general, logos tend to be placed on the left which results in the right hemisphere of our brains taking the job of analyzing it.

Both background and foreground image remain the most adjustable elements, as the foreground components such as CTA, logo and slogan play the most important role in how users perceive an ad and engage with it. Therefore, visual assets can usually be modified according to what works best as a background and how the foreground image plays with all the top-layer elements. For example, a marketer might want to attract people’s attention to a particular part of a model, e.g. their handbag, which A.I. might not know yet – and we believe it’s just fine.



We are all artists inside and as we do with advertising agencies, we like to add our own touches into the ad creation process – even if it happens in our own computer on an ad creation platform. The question of what should and shouldn't be adjusted is being investigated by researchers and advertising gurus and we are not free of these thoughts either. In the topic of simple digital ads, a fair level of collaboration between human intuition and purely data-driven selections based on machine learning can bring effective results… and a decent visual look – at least in the eyes of the creator.



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