Human beings are saturated with visual sensory input. This kind of competition makes it very tough to be a designer of the new, cool and memorable. Many designers of commercial advertising have turned to the old schema that 'sex sells'. Well the information I'm handing you today is going to make it even tougher for many advertising and commercial designers who may still be relying on these old stereotypes.
"People think sex sells. Advertisers 'know it', TV and film producers believe it and the internet was built on it. But does sex really help sell products, or is it just one of those expressions ad execs use so they can while away an afternoon choosing models?"
Sex Doesn't Sell (Neither Does Violence)
According to these two recent and accredited studies, sex and violence in advertising does the exact opposite of it's intended result. It proved that for most women - the larger part of our purchasing audience on the internet and in brick and mortar stores - sexual or violent depictions actually "turn off" the memory. The ones that were remembered were not liked by most women. And for men, although they are more likely to remember the sexual aspects, the brand recall is erased.
"Earlier work has suggested that sex and violence in television programmes deter people from paying attention to advertisements, but speculated that this may be overcome by using sex in the commercials as well. The new work suggests that this view is mistaken. It would appear that sex does not sell anything other than itself."
The big turn off
Ok so what do people like? What does stick in the memory and leave good feelings in the viewer toward the product or business you are designing for?
I will tell you a secret.
If you design as if you are designing for a child - you are on the money every time. Apple knows this. Other great designers know this. Don't get me wrong here. You can have a very sophisticated ad schema, and still retain important childlike elements in the design. This is not a 'dumbing down' recipe, but a design recipe for attractiveness and brand remembrance for the average viewer. Here is a simplified list to work from.
Solid blocks of "friendly' colors.
Larger, bold, easy to read text.
Curved or rounded shapes.
Rhythmic shapes or designs.
Smooth flow or impressions of smooth movement.
Funny or quirky, non-threatening elements or images.
Observe a child watching a professionaly produced commercial. They rock to the music, clap their hands, laugh out loud, sing. And when you take them to the store they see those brands and remember them (and want them) every time.
That level of excitement and joy is what you are aiming for in commercial design for adults. So insofar as your client will allow, leave out the sex and violence and bring back the fun, the simple, the cool. If you need to, show your client the results of these studies. You, your client and his business will all benefit greatly.