The Secret to Successful Product Design? Simplicity.
The more immediately someone understands a product or message, the greater chance you have of selling him or her on it. Everyone recognizes Apple's white ear buds without explanation. Visual perception occupies by far the largest area of the human brain -- 80 percent -- followed by hearing at 10 percent, making sight the most influential of the senses.
Add to this the fact that people spend as little as three seconds at the retail shelf, meaning they do not even see text, much less read or understand it. The time spent looking at a digital ad is even shorter. So why not simplify your product, packaging and messaging for more memorable communication?
Thinking of your business in terms of pictures from the outset will help you find points-of-difference that will carry through your brand. We should be on a mission to convert as many words as possible to icons and images on our products, packaging and marketing efforts.
Here are three simple and effective ways to get started:
1. Make your product intuitive.
When packaging, product design or even messaging is cluttered, we don't actually register what's being conveyed. Our brain gets fatigued and we may give up and move on. Clean, simple silhouettes with fewer bells and whistles reduce the message to an idea that is both immediate and clear: "I am not difficult to use. I am intuitive."
The tablet is a good example of this approach, which is also easily recognizable in non-tech consumer products. For example, OXO, a New York-based gadget producer, has a wooden hand-held lemon reamer with a simple design that is immediately recognizable in terms of its functionality.
2. Use icons in place of words.
The written word is valuable, but pictures need to play a larger role in a world where consumers are bombarded with information. Icons that embody the prime characteristics of your brand or product are memorable and instantly identifiable on the shelf or online. We are both culturally and biologically programmed to gravitate toward those things that we recognize. They give us a feeling of comfort and security.
I like to cite the example of Milton Glaser's "I Love N.Y." logo. In the 1970s Glaser harkened back to our deepest emotion -- love -- using the already familiar heart symbol to create the "I Love N.Y." logo. It was such a huge hit because its meaning was instantaneous, making it a classic icon for New York tourism ever since.
3. Develop packaging that's visually compelling.
Products and packaging have to echo each other. After you've envisioned your product's characteristics, those consumer touch points should fit the look of its packaging as well. In its broadest sense, packaging is the delivery of the entire experience.
Take, for example, the classic 1915 Coca-Cola contour bottle that we all recognize. This packaging was actually a radical break from convention at a time when beverage bottles were straight and featureless. The design was inspired by the cocoa pod, but over time, it became known as the Mae West bottle because of its feminine and curvy shape, which helped reinforce Coke's efforts at the time to be associated with health, discreet sexiness and vigor.
Take a step back and consider how you can make your brand and products more visual and intuitive. What simplifications and visual cues would make the product easier to use and more immediately understandable? The more elegant and straightforward your design, the easier it will be for you to win customers.