What’s the first thing we notice when we look at a poster? What parts of a website appeal to an individual? Why are some logos created the way they are?
In her talk “Your Brain On Typography”, Ellen Lupton answered these questions, presenting on a high level how people respond to a designed environment. Through her interactive and spontaneous personality, Lupton shed light on how brains process designs to understand information and how designers themselves exploit these ideas to redirect and manipulate the eye.
She delved into multiple examples, such as the sense of security a person has with physical items or how letterforms and type have broken the threshold as just symbols. Through each discussion, one theme was common. Design isn’t only about engineering something that’s user-friendly or physically appealing. It has to strike people as something that they can feel comfortable with. People perceive seemingly insignificant details that can completely shift their mood and thoughts. For instance, with the example of the toilet paper spring, humans tended to stick with the less-convenient and negative behavior inducing holder since there was a greater feeling of comfort and safety.
Think about it. When you see a poster or a website, your brain naturally breaks the design down into a hierarchy, looks at each element, and then attempts to interpret its meaning. Somewhere in the middle of this process, the type, the organization, the images – one aspect of the overall design – is likely to set off your mood. Ellen Lupton mentioned and supported this theory in her talk, explaining how the sense of security is abandoned just because humans witness something that’s slightly different from what they are used to.
Through Lupton’s talk, course assignments, and everyday life, it’s very clear that communicating an idea isn’t simply about taking information and organizing everything in a pretty way. Design is a process that needs to leverage security, making people feel comfortable through each contact and analysis.