No, we’re not sexists or anti-feminists. [Though we do remember all too well the slogan that prompted our headline.]
Our musings this day go to packaging, and why we pay attention to certain things, not others. The food industry has it made: They know, for instance, that 64 percent of U.S. consumers buy products from shelves because of packaging. Drilling deeper, shoppers grab first by color, then by shape, followed by symbols and words. Even more, the fascination with small versions in re-sealable bags and single-serving multipacks has proven to entice buyers who typically bag 50 items in the same number of minutes in supermarkets.
Overall, much attention is being paid to the Pretty Factor, a phenomenon attributed to Apple (among others). All aspects of containers matter, whether that’s shape or color, graphics or labeling.
Why, then, do we as communicators, designers, and even marketers tend to ignore the look of the information we send inside and out, to staff, to consumers, to regulators and politicians? [Omit, if you would, the annual report, the intranet, open enrollment, et al. which historically strut their stuff.] So: We’re talking emails, memos, reports, HR information, service and product letters, warranties … the standard stuff that usually gets slapped on a masthead and distributed. The writing may be catchy and succinct; the message, clear and unadulterated. Somehow you gotta know that at least 25 percent of recipients will (check one) 1) file it for e-review on a rainy day, 2) toss it in the stack of ‘to-reads’ on a desktop, 3) send it to a colleague with comments or questions, or 4) discard it altogether.
Compellingness extends, in our opinion, to everything we produce. Why not help way-overloaded staff who simply don’t have the time to scan their in-boxes … and label (with icons and illustrations) the nice to know, must know, must do items? Or: Design an instructions memo typographically, with steps laid out in bold print, no mouse type? And: Consider read-able alternatives to the thank you for your response consumer note – a postcard, a note card, even an animated email instead of plain-Jane look and lengthy text?
Pretty-ness, obviously, must be more than skin-deep; user experience work has taught us that much. [As has life experience.] What’s your take, dear reader?