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What Do Design, Psychology & Communication Skills Have in Common?

March 15, 2017, Paweł Rosner

Trends are constantly changing – much faster than the products we are working on. Each industry has its own design tendencies, and each group of users has its own preferences and habits. Our role is to recognise them and to turn them into a single product that won’t end up being just a passing trend. In our work, we combine function with brand perception so that our client can achieve his business aspects and, at the same time, the user will enjoy themselves and be satisfied when using the product. Even though this is not a simple process, it gives us a lot of satisfaction.

Before We Fire up the Design Software

All of our design decisions are based on extensive research. We analyse the competitors’ market, the trends, and the tendencies to help us outline the field of activities. Secondly, we conduct bilateral consultations with User Experience designers. We inspire each other when designing the functions and graphics – this helps us to quickly abandon bad ideas. We then discuss our solutions with developers because what we can do in Sketch or Photoshop cannot always be recreated in a browser or by a mobile operation system. We want to create amazing digital products and push the boundaries of technology. Conversations with developers are really inspirational and help turn obstacles into rivers of new opportunities. These rivers then carry us until we wash ashore our desks and open Photoshop.

Just a Few More Things Before We Start Designing

It is not time to draw just yet. Firstly, in order to create a more effective workflow and less painful amendments, we need to fix the file structure and internal hierarchy: the naming of layers, symbol libraries, and smart objects. Secondly, among others, we choose the typeface and the colour palette, which will give the project an appropriate tone of voice and character.

At the same time, we have to set a proper grid, which will establish the overall hierarchy and rhythm of the whole project. This is a crucial step because we work in the matrix of various devices with a very wide range of different resolutions; as the concepts of mobile, tablet, and desktop are only categories consisting of many subcategories. Therefore, whenever possible, we use Google Analytics which can provide valuable information about user preferences and devices. We always want our design to be based on strong foundations.

It’s Time to Design!

Do not worry, I will not describe the whole process in detail but I would like to touch on a few things. As an example, let us take a closer look at the button – one of the most used elements on the web. It may seem rather prosaic but, in reality, it consists of bits of knowledge from psychology, typography, technology, project frameworks, and the ability to analyse, communicate, and, of course, design. The visual design is actually the result of all of the aforementioned components and our creativity. The question arises – but how? Why?

The psychological aspect is not only reflected in the choice of colours but also in the choosing of the most suitable place to locate the button. One that would ensure proper visibility, would prevent the button from blending in with the surrounding elements, and would clearly communicate to the user that it is a clickable element (proximity law).

The appropriate choice of typography renders the button label easy to read and it sets the “tone of voice” of the message that it is trying to communicate. For example, a label written in uppercase will seem as though it is “shouting” at the user, the same message written in title case will be more formal, whereas, the same content set in regular sentence case will have a more neutral voice.

The impact of technology can be seen on multiple levels (e.g. interactions). Will the project use animated SVG? If it will, we can create engaging interactions that will make the user more willing to explore our website and to click on various buttons.

Analytical thinking is the foundation of responsive design. When we are working on responsive design, we turn into chess players – we have to be two moves ahead at all times. When designing the desktop version of a website, we are also thinking about tablets and mobiles. We have to think dynamically when designing static graphics because we have to be able to imagine what the transition between screens will look like, how to animate the modal, hoover effect, etc.
And now our favourite, but also the most challenging, tip of the iceberg – visual design. During this stage, we have to combine all of the abovementioned elements and arrange them in a creative and functional way. Everything has to be able to fit on a pixel grid and should also be perfectly in line with the client’s brand.

The above is a brief story of the simple button, which along with other UI components (form fields, checkboxes, lists, whole typographic system, etc.,) sometimes grows to become a very large library of components. This group of components is used within the designed product to create visual and brand integrity, whereas, the custom graphics, illustrations, and photographs help make it more unique.

Communication is Key

As designers, we give the business goals and UX wireframes physical dimension. We create something which the future user will be able to see and interact with – which situates us not only in front of the computer screen but almost directly in front of the end user. This is a big responsibility, of which we are well aware, and that is also why communication is so important. How we communicate during the planning stage has already been mentioned; now it is time for a short description of the communication, which takes place during the design process and after it.

Remaining in continuous contact with the client is very important during the design process because it provides valuable feedback and verification of already developed solutions. InVision is a very useful verification tool, thanks to which each element of the project can be commented on. InVision allows us and the client to track the history of changes and to see the comments made, along with their impact on the design. Often times, it is in these circumstances, when you can see the “ready” project, that business goals are verified.

Our role in a given project does not end with us simply sending files to the developers. We discuss implementation and animations with them in order to be able to provide the highest quality of design and the most optimal code. We try to communicate with each other as effectively as possible because we want to create a really well-designed website, which will provide the user with a smooth and engaging experience.

Designing brings about an extraordinary sense of satisfaction and joy from having been able to shape the user’s first impression. The elements we create are the prism through which the user views the rest of the product – maybe that is why we sometimes feel as though we know our users better than ourselves.

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