Design that gets people to act—to come
to an event, give to a cause, buy a
product or service, or ask for information—
is an art in itself. Doing it successfully
is part science, part intuition,
and part experience. You can’t learn intuition or get
experience from a magazine article, but I can share
with you what I’ve learned about the science.
1. Deconstruct the copy for “persuasion factors.”.
The ability to persuade is built on ease of comprehension
leading to interaction with your message.
In other words, once the reader is hooked, going on
to absorb the rest of the design says the reader has
agreed to be persuaded. Your job is to make the persuasive
argument immediately understandable.
To persuade, you must capture readers’ attention
until they convince themselves. Deconstructing the
copy for persuasion means deciding how to emphasize
the selling words and action words by size, color,
repetition, and the use of imagery to summarize the
value and emotional appeal of the copywriter’s intent.
Alice Williams Taus, longtime creative director
at Rodale Publications and now a freelance designer,
says, “Repetition is important in persuasion. Clever
design allows the message to be repeated in different
ways, until it becomes almost subliminal and imprints
on the mind. Think about where the person
starts and stops, where the hand will touch the material
and how the hands frame the message, and then
what you want the person to feel and do—turn the
page, tear out the coupon, fill out the order form.”
And by the way, putting quote marks, for any
reason, in a headline or subhead increases readership.
2. Find the emotion that sells; or, how to avoid
puppies, kittens, babies, and babes.
In all effective creative work that’s designed to persuade,
emotion is employed and is appealed to either
subliminally or blatantly. Identify the emotions that
do two things:
- Get attention for the ad, mailing, or website
- Keep driving the message home
Then select the images, the colors, and the type that
immediately convey the emotional appeals.
Next, identify the benefit messages, and lead
the eye to the benefit that links to the emotion. The
design formula = Emotion to Benefit to Response.
And, actually, it is OK to use puppies, kittens,
babies, and babes if all else fails.
3. Create “moments of decision” visually.
To start, describe to yourself in detail the act
of responding. What makes the reader want to
respond? How will he feel as he decides? What is the
actual response mechanism? Does the reader pick up
the phone? Go to the website? Send back a form?
Find the copy that describes the act of response
and visually emphasize it. Make it stand out with
symbols of value and text that emotionally sell.
Text that directs the reader to respond and
information on how to respond need to be featured
in places where the hand and the eye come to rest.
Sometimes those spots will be natural or instinctive,
like the bottom-right corner of a page. But just as
often your design will direct the viewer’s eye.
Add visual elements that literally point where
to respond, leading from page to page or element to
element. Arrows, rules, swaths of color are all visual
forms that support the response impulse.
Counterintuitive tricks like including a sticker
that gets moved to a response card help lead the hand
to the spot that triggers response in the layout.
4. Practice weird science (designus interruptus).
Design elements that cause the reader to go “huh?”
momentarily can subconsciously refresh attention
and arouse curiosity. These should be subtle—not
like suddenly leading an elephant into the room.
Doing something slightly visually uncomfortable—
like covering part of a face, printing a faux
sticky note over a face, or putting a headline across
the fold in a brochure—can be a powerful device to
keep readers attentive without stopping the flow.
5. Use the science.
In designing for persuasion, don’t let the desire to be
original persuade you to forgo techniques proven to
be effective. Adding these techniques to your repertoire
can activate your talent in new ways, and allow
you to create design that powerfully persuades.
About the author
In this issue we introduce our newest columnist, Sandra
J. Blum. Author of Designing Direct Mail That Sells, she has created winning campaigns
and marketing communications for clients such as National Geographic Society, The Atlantic,
JPMorgan Chase, Smithsonian, and ACNielsen. She is a noted speaker at conferences
and consults on business strategy and market development.
Learn more at www.blumdirect.com.