Design: Seeing Without Thinking

Visual perception and pattern detection for designers. What your audience immediately sees without consciously thinking much about it and how to design for it.

What jumps out?

Some designers might think I’m referencing the Call to Action, and that’s true, but that’s the low-hanging fruit. This goes much deeper.

There’s some interesting science behind this question of what jumps out. When you apply this science to your work, it can boost the results and satisfaction your designs deliver. This is a phenomenon that occurs in the brain’s low-level visual system. Simply, preattentive Processing describes a limited set of visual cues the brain can rapidly process, what jumps out in your audience’s mind.

Color and info layering

In our scenario, we are mapping census data to show how similar geographic areas compare to each other in terms of population, income, race, or education level.


Three maps with standard color palettes

Of course, the most inspired ideas come from the magical space in time between falling asleep and sleeping (if only I could remember them!). The idea should be strong enough to push you to action.

Give the Idea an Inspiration Shower

The seed needs to be soaked in an inspiration shower (patent pending). I hunt the interwebs for cool UI patterns and archive them in a massive PhotoShop file. For example, when working on YouTube TV I grabbed hundreds of examples of future UI from futurists like Jayse Hansen and Neil Huxley.

Designing and developing anything of consequence is incredibly challenging.

Sketching for me is the result of landing on a solution in my mind. I dont sketch to solve the problem, I sketch to describe the solution I see in my mind.

I don’t stop sketching until I transfer the whole system from my mind to paper. I have to understand the big picture of the product first and how every piece fits together. I tend to sketch out little UI patterns like how I would handle large numbers, dates and long titles, trying to solve potential UI issues before I get working on mocks.

Ship and Evaluate

Shipping is the ultimate test of your designs success. Successful design is design that converts. There are only three metrics that truly matter:

  1. How many users?
  2. How much time do they spend on site?
  3. How much revenue do you generate?

Data doesn’t lie. What you build and ship either increases these conversion metrics or decreases them.

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