color psychology in marketing and design
Startup & Entrepreneurship

Design Psychology: The Importance of Good UX and Neuroarchitecture

Nicki Empson

08 June 2020

Design is done best when it is informed by the human brain and how it works. Yet wrong design, digital or otherwise can have sometimes catastrophic effect on people and their communities. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of psychology behind design to help empower and enrich your customer’s experience. 

What is UX Design?

Before we dive in, let’s brush up on the lingo. UX stands for user experience design. It’s the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure found in the interaction between someone and a product.

Why is UX design important? 

The final goal of UX design is to offer a great experience for the user of the product, usually a digital product, such as an app or website. Although in this blog we’ll explore the importance of UX design in a space as well. 

If a user enjoys an experience they will return for more, either by using the same product time and time again or even purchasing more of the same brand's products. In fact, intentional and strategic user experience has the power to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%.

In short, good UX design increases brand loyalty and great UX design is led with people first. Without a good understanding of how the human brain navigates, perceives, and processes information, UX design will be hard pushed to create the best possible experience for someone. Summed up nicely by author Frank Chimero 'people ignore design that ignores people.'

What is Neuroarchitecture?

Neuroarchitecture is the intersection where architecture and neuroscience meet. Neuroarchitecture studies the relationship between brain processes and architecture and its impact on the emotional and physical health of people. Its main goal is to improve the human experience and well-being by optimizing the built environment that surrounds us. OneCoWork's architects and designers share this goal and apply the findings of neuroarchitecture in all their work.

A great example of Neuroarchitecture thriving is this case study in a call center. The study started when the company realized that although all employees had access to daylight, workstations that were perpendicular to windows meant employees had to move their chairs to see outside. 

In response to this, the call center invested $1000 into re-positioning the work-stations at such an angle such that employees could see the trees without needing to move. The psychological effects were so profound that the $1,000 investment led to a 6% gain in call handling efficiency, a $2,990 return. 

Any business can learn two things from this. One, that access to nature is always good for productivity. Two, the ease of access to things people want is so important for productivity. Keep this in mind as you consider digital and offline design throughout this article. 

Here at OneCoWork, the design is the ham to our sandwich, the burger to our chips, the cheese to our macaroni, the jam to our peanut butter, we could go on. In case you missed the point there, design is really important to us. Both in space and in our digital products.

Why? Because the findings from the research about the relationship between design and wellbeing, productivity and happiness are overwhelming. At OneCoWork, we want to create more happiness and inspire productivity.

We refer back to Neuroarchitecture often. This not only encompasses the architecture of our spaces but of our digital realms as well. We want every OneCoWork touchpoint to remain true to our values: Quality, Inclusivity, Consciousness, and Innovation.

With that being said let’s dive into the psychology behind great design and explore some actionable ways you can incorporate inspiring design into your own product. 

3 Ways the Brain Informs UX Design 

1. The human visual system


The Human Visual System, let’s call it HVS, consists of the eye and the brain; the eye receives the inputs and the brain processes, and converts the inputs into information we can use. 

An important characteristic of the HVS for UX designers is that it recognizes a whole rather than individual parts. This is one of the basic principles of perception argued by psychologist Max Wertheimer in 'Laws of Organisation in Perceptual Forms' in 1923. Wertheimer laid out a set of psychological principles that explain how the mind perceives visual stimuli; the Gestalt principles.

The 5 Gestalt Principles are: 

1. Law of Proximity 

When objects are gathered close together we tend to perceive them together as one group.

2. Law of Similarity

Objects are perceived as groups if they are similar to each other.

3. Law of Common Region

Objects tend to be perceived as groups if they share an area with a clearly defined boundary.

4. Law of Figure Ground

Objects are perceived as either important figures that demand attention or as background.

5. Law of Closure

States that we fill in the missing gaps of content on a page. 

The 5 Gestalt Principles can be implemented into the design of your own website or even office space. Think about where you place things and people within a page or a floor plan. Consider if you want things or people to be perceived as in the same group, or would rather them be perceived as separate. 

Plus, addressing the law of closure. If you don’t want someone to fill in the gaps, then don’t leave them. Maximize your space and the emotions you want it to create.  

2. The psychology of color

color psychology in marketing

Colour has a huge impact on the brain. We experience colors as objects that elicit different emotions in us. It is for this reason that UX and interior designers need to know and understand the physiological impact colors have on the brain. Let’s dive into a study..

Joe Hallock carried out a study in 2003 that compared color preferences among different demographics. The results showed that people associate a color with emotion. The majority of people associate the color blue with trust and security, red with speed, orange with being cheap, black with high quality, black with high technology, blue with reliability, purple with courage, red with fear, and orange with fun.

The impact of color on the brain is so powerful, a study called 'Impact of Colour on Marketing' found that 90% of snap judgments made about a product are made on color alone. 

The following study is slightly haunting but I reference it to highlight the power of color. In 2009, Tokyo's Yamanote railway stations installed blue lights at the end of all 29 of their platforms in an attempt to decrease the number of suicides occurring. The stations with blue lights saw a 74% fall in suicide numbers.

If you are interested in reading more on this, there are many studies supporting these conclusions, see here and here.

Think long and hard about the emotions you would like your brand to generate. Do you want your customers to feel calm? Productive? Peaceful? All of the above? Take a look at the colors your brand is currently using, what does that say about your product and the emotions you’re currently generating? 

In our spaces and on our site we tend to use softer colors that elicit comfort, support, and productivity. You’ll notice we shy away from bold colors and with good reason. 

3. Persuasive design

The goal of persuasive design is to influence a human's behavior based on the characteristics of a product. What is your product trying to persuade the user to do? 

There are five well known psychological triggers for persuasion; reciprocation, social proof, scarcity, framing, and salience, all of which should be incorporated into good UX design.


People are moved to action when they feel like they are returning a favor. Social scientist Randy Gardner carried out a study in 2005 to see if writing personal sticky notes to people would encourage them to fill out a survey. 

His results found that those who received a sticky note with a personal, handwritten note not only completed the survey but they also returned the survey more promptly and to a better quality than those who didn't receive a personal handwritten note. 

Why? Because they felt like they were doing something nice in return to someone who had done something nice for them.

Social proof

People are moved to act if they see others doing the same thing. An effective way of eliciting this through design is displaying a subscriber count, placing the logos of other brands that endorse the company's products, reviews, and social media shares.

Within a space, this can be incorporated with images and video around the space of others using it in their own way. We do this at our Marina Port Vell coworking space with our photo wall. 


People tend to want what they can't have which means people place a higher value on things that are likely to be unavailable over things that there are plenty of. A study found that people wanted a jar of cookies that only had 2 cookies in over a jar of cookies that had 10 cookies in; the jars and the cookies were the same. 

This phenomenon can be applied within your own design efforts by highlighting almost out of stock products and by displaying time-sensitive deals.


People are persuaded to act based on how something is presented to them. A New York restaurant called Balthazar used this principle in its menu to persuade customers to buy a particular meal. Balthazar framed two dishes costing $130 and $175 in order to draw customers' attention to that first.  The purpose was to make everything else around the framed meals look cheap; needless to say, the restaurant was a success.


People are persuaded to act if and when their attention is drawn to something relevant to them at that moment in time. A prime example of this is upselling during the checkout process. 

Ever noticed on amazon, just before you buy your new headphones, there is a scroll list of all other related products to listening to music? Yup, Amazon uses the psychology behind salience to persuade you to buy more.

Wrapping it all up

At OneCoWork, we use the findings of neuroarchitecture to build and design our spaces in order to optimize human health, happiness, and productivity. To put it simply, we are building neuroarchitecture-informed workspaces. Alain De Botton, in 'The Architecture of Happiness', says "we need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical", and we couldn't agree more.

Disciplines that study the psychology and neuroscience behind design are growing in importance. For humans, it should come as no surprise that the more we enjoy interacting with a product the more we will continue to interact with it. 

Carry these principles through in the design of your own company. Remember, design doesn’t stop on your website. Let it flow through your digital spaces, your physical spaces, and every touch-point in-between. People should enjoy engaging with your brand. Achieve that and they’ll keep coming back. Who knows, maybe they’ll bring their friends too.

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