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Attention spans, digital aestheticism and ‘dog-legs’. Top advice from Andy Gregory, Grand Central's Creative Director

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Andy Gregory is the Founder and Creative Director of Grand Central, a creative digital and innovation agency with a social heart. We create customer focused creative solutions combining marketing and technology through all media by investing in, and partner with our clients to understand the customer journey with the brand. For us, every customer is unique and our deep understanding of how technology and marketing can be seamlessly integrated allows us to treat them as individuals.

With the vast array of brands, products, ads, pop-ups, blogs, emails, tweets, chats, texts, status updates continually vying for your audience’s attention it’s no wonder that an individual’s decision of trust and continual interest are made within a fraction of a second. Snap decisions are just that; a quick evaluation of choice before their attention spans on to the next digital upload. The human brain has an amazing capacity to instantly judge, then act. After all, the basic fight or flight response has kept us all thriving to this day.

As a basic rule of thumb in the design world, the aesthetic of any given creative execution (let’s use a website design as an example) is the first potential obstacle as to whether you maintain or lose your audience’s curiosity and trust. If a viewer does not agree/like/understand/affiliate with your website design then you may immediately lose their attention, trust and patience. How many times have you impatiently discounted and closed a website moving your search on to the next Google result listing, simply because you didn’t like the design quality of the site?

A respectable amount of effort into a website’s visual quality is needed to warrant our continued attention. As a creative director, perfection in digital design is key.

What is wrong or right is, of course, subjective. You’ll be hard pushed to please everyone however you can go a long way to pleasing most of your audience with care and attention to the intricate design details.

Here’s where I’d like to introduce you to what I like to call “dog legs”.

There is no doubt that in fig.1 I clearly meant to balance one box directly on top of the other. They match perfectly. Job well done. In fig.2 there is also no doubt that the boxes were deliberately designed to be offset. In fig.3, however, you may wonder if I had meant to balance the boxes directly on top of one another but sloppily missed. It’s a shame really as they would have looked so aesthetically pleasing if they lined up but now they just look… well… ‘off’. Fig 3 is a ‘dog-leg’ as I like to call it, an example of a slapdash design flaw you unfortunately see many a time in digital creativity.

 

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In context, these boxes are a metaphor for a multitude of guilty ‘dog-legs’: your brand logo squeezed slightly too close to the navigation bar; an image not optimised to load quickly; two colours that were not quite complementary; two small shadows that didn’t share the same light source or one column that was very slightly thinner than the adjacent one.

The subconscious flags

One guilty ‘dog-leg’ is almost imperceptible to the majority, however subconsciously a little flag will pop up in many a viewer’s brain. It’s a small flag of displeasure, something they may not be able to pinpoint. One flag will not matter much – the rest of the aesthetic, the fact the above boxes are perfectly square and pleasingly coloured will take precedent. But what if there was more than one ‘dog-leg’? What if all the aforementioned ‘dog-legs’ examples were dotted all over your website? On a subliminal level they all add together to form one big fat whopping flag. A subconscious flag that could result in a potential customer instantaneously taking a dislike and mistrust to your website and ultimately leaving.

If you were to ask the visitor why they had left they probably wouldn’t be able to articulate the reason why.

You only have a snapshot of time to capture your audience and gain their trust. This is why it’s vastly important to take care and time with your all of your digital designs, be it your website, mobile app, banner ads, video campaigns…

Experience, knowledge and audience understanding are vital skills that go into producing designs that are not only ‘on brand’ but importantly exclude any possible ‘dog-legs’. The result is a digital design that immediately passes that first, all important obstacle: to grab your audience’s interest and retain their attention and trust.

Need help with your “dog's leg”?

 

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