August 2022
5 Mins
Ellinor Valtersson Brand Strategist

If you need to explain your design, I don’t care

As Strategy Director Paul Bailey here at Halo often says; we live in an attention economy. People can in a day be exposed to up to 10,000 messages, causing our brains to screen information and subconsciously ignore what we deem irrelevant. It is no longer about having something to say, but about saying something people are interested in hearing.

If you work in the branding or advertising industry, I’m guessing that what you just read is not news to you.

Still, as experts in all things brand and communications, it’s easy to overestimate the importance our work holds in consumers' minds. Haven’t we all at some point had a multitude of iterations of our work, and spent hours crafting an incredibly clever concept with 10 layers of deeper meaning, symbolism and hidden secrets in it? All the while having a crushing backlog of things that you need to get done.

The problem is that various layers of deeper meaning and complex symbolism are things we were forced to analyse when reading Jane Eyre or Lord of the Flies in school. It is not something people do with all 10,000 messages they might see in a day. We wouldn’t have time to be doing anything else with our life if that was the case. For example, it takes around 0.05 seconds for people to form an opinion about your website. And anyone skilled in digital marketing will have familiarity with thumb stoppers; content designed specifically to grab your attention in less than a second.

I’m not saying complexity and deeper reasoning doesn’t belong in branding. There’s something intriguing about discovering more depth the more you are exposed to something, unravelling it bit by bit until you get that wondrous “AHAA” moment. But this is an experience limited to the selected few that become loyal lovers of your brand, and the harsh truth is that most people will never ‘get it’. And before loyal lovers start exploring a brand's meaning, they too need to have their attention grabbed.

If a message or design doesn’t get the main point across and most importantly grab a person's attention in less than a second, consumers don’t care about it. And so, neither should you.