In Defense of Eye Candy
(“Eye candy” is translated by one of the ABBYY Lingvo dictionaries as “something pretty, attractive, pleasing to the eye (person, thing, etc.)”; also “Eye Candy” is the name of the Adobe Photoshop plug-in with a set of ready-made effects. Note translator)
In the society of designers, one can often hear that true professionals build their work on strict compliance of design with the corporate style of the brand or simply on the basic principles of design, and aesthetic beauty fades into the background. Live discussions on this subject lack one thing: realizing that aesthetics play a huge role in cognition, perception, and reaction.
Take a look at what “clothes” designers “put on” today with ordinary, ready-made structured information; or as the term “eye candy” reduces the significance of graphic design per se. Language, at the present stage, narrows the concept of “design” to a simple “design”, and also separates “aesthetics” and “usability”, as if they were two completely different areas. If we switch from individual graphic elements and pay attention to the general aesthetics – “the science of how we learn by feelings” – we will find out that this very difference between how something works and how it looks is not really exists, it is far-fetched.
To begin with, I will say that “aesthetics” deals with everything that relates to our senses and is not limited only to our eyesight: it is hearing, and touch, and smell and sensitivity in general. In other words: how we perceive and understand the world around us. As professionals in our field, we must pay attention to every element of the design, which can affect the behavior of [person] when interacting with the system, site, program.
Moreover, “aesthetics explores our emotional area in relation to an object or action” (Wikipedia). In other words, aesthetics is not only the design features of buttons on Internet sites and other visual effects, but also the specific reaction of a visitor to these buttons. So, let’s formulate the problem: how do the selected design decisions affect the understanding and feelings of the user, and how do the latter ultimately affect behavior?
Aesthetics and perception.
Perception is a “process of cognition.” We learn to learn the world based on previous experience and following generally accepted patterns of behavior: What happens if I click here? What is this color talking about? The science of cognition studies how a person cognizes things, and aesthetics play a key role in the process of cognition of an object by a person. In the example below: which of the quadrangles is the button exactly?
Both buttons say “Search” in English.
In this case, aesthetics communicates a function. The example on the right resembles a real button. The chamfered edges and gradient fill leave no doubt about the function of this image – this is the button. In this example, graphic design plays the role of a “beacon” – “you can interact with it” – which, in turn, plays an important role in design. In other words: if it looks like a button, most likely it is a button.
Similarly, the following: well-designed forms of user confirmation of actions (on the site or in the program interface) have an element that the user should check (check mark) and, most likely, there are shades of green: green – good; red is bad; yellow – worth thinking about. The designer in his work must take into account how our brain understands colors, shadows, shades, and hatching. The user usually does not notice such things until some designer does stupidity, as here:
“Question successfully added” reads an English inscription on the tablet.
In this example, the graphic design conflicts with meaning.
In this article, we examine how our brain interprets the meanings of colors, shadows, and other natural visible manifestations of the environment. Take a sheet of paper and bring it closer to you: see how the shadow changes. These are the facts of the world around us that our brain perceives every day. When we transfer these facts to the monitor, they take with them all their signs that the brain is used to.
Nevertheless, aesthetics is not only functionality, but design is not only visual pleasure.
Aesthetics and impact.
When we talk about “exposure,” we talk about feelings and emotions. No, not in the sense of “oh, your brand evokes positive feelings!”, But how this impact affects usability. We will use the previous example, but with a few changes:
Both buttons say “Search” in English.
In terms of perception, these are buttons. Both are exactly buttons. However, if we turn to the study of attention, belief, choice, happiness, cognition, etc., the conclusions will be as follows: on average, a more attractive button is more often pressed by a large number of people. In support of this idea, I can comment on the problem of the feelings of the neuroscientist António Damásio: