Tips For Businesses, Tips For Designers

The Manipulation Of Design

A chilling winter Saturday found me on an urgent journey to Drug Mart, desperately seeking a pack of Ramen noodles to comfort me while I battled an unforgiving cold. I was quite single-minded in my quest, until I was jolted out of my aggressive search by something that could only be described as stunning. There, gracing an end cap, was this can so beautifully designed, I stopped dead in my tracks and Ramen noodles quickly fled my mind.

I didn’t think twice about purchasing it, without second thought it joined the suddenly lesser-appealing items in my cart. I have a habit of this. My desk and surrounding surfaces are ornamented with various packages and papers that struck a chord and demanded that I obtain and promptly display them.  

This is how designers interact with the world. We love making beautiful things, and we equally love admiring beautiful things. Sometimes it seems surreal when I become actively aware that the way someone designed a product is the sole reason I’m compelled to buy it. In reality, this happens on a regular basis. We buy branded products because they have a logo we recognize. Or when looking between two similar items, we instinctively reach for the better-looking one.

When asked to describe what I do, I’m tempted throw out buzzwords like “branding” and “visual elements.” But I think the best way to explain my job is by saying I control people without them knowing. Not surprising, this gets a few raised eyebrows and a few steps taken back. But it’s an accurate way for a designer to think of themselves. Our task is no easy one. We have to create something that will compel a person to pluck it off the shelf without hesitation, just with an inane sense that it’s the superior choice. We are needed to put elements together in a way that can lead someone through a task without any wrong turns or mistakes. We have to embody the soul of a company that can be reduced to a one-color image.

This post doesn’t have a three-step process to make better designs, or the top ten things you should look for in a beverage. It’s simply the acknowledgment of the manipulation of design. There’s a high chance you aren’t aware how molded you are by design, how easily it plays you like a puppet. Becoming aware might not make you a better businessman, designer, consumer, or whatever you are. But I hope it makes you more in awe of the power of design.  

If you’re a fellow designer, this is just one big “congrats” for doing the near-impossible. If you have the pleasure of working with or hiring designers, this is a boosted signal for how powerful design is, how valuable it is. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be publishing posts breaking down what I love about some of the packages and products that have been collected on my shelves, including that gorgeous Bai can. But for the moment, no matter where you find yourself though, whether walking down the aisle or browsing through Amazon, I hope these few words have cause you to become more aware of the manipulation of design.

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