07 Jun 2005|Darrel Rhea

Ed Bastista’s blog today talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, and how important design is for influencing people’s perceptions of products and services. Bastista’s focus is on web design, and his assessment is spot on.

As Malcolm and I discussed in the book, most viewers can not and do not distinguish between the content of the product or service, and the appearance or “packaging” of the site (made up of its graphics, navigational, and branding elements). We have done hundreds of studies that have confirmed this. Design absolutely alters our perceptions in significant ways.

I am continually surprised when this fact irritates and even offends many people. They like to think that their content (product, service, editorial, etc.) is the “real” product, and the design (or “packaging”) doesn’t or shouldn’t be the basis of how people assess their quality. After all, it is only the medium, not the message.

I have actually heard people (including some web designers) say that users “are wrong” to do this. It is as if there is some moral line being crossed. “People should be rational. I shouldn’t be held accountable for the perceptions of the content, I’m just the designer.”

Whether you are a fan of Marshall McLuhan, or his predecessor, Louis Cheskin, you know that the medium IS the message. Right or wrong, the conclusive data that proves design radically influences human perception came in over a half a century ago. Get over it, and start mastering it. What is astounding to me is that it is still being debated.

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