Designing to Create a Response

by Nate Croft


Objectivity is often like a dog’s head on a car ride, it goes right out the window. It can be easy to lose sight of your goal sometimes. Keeping your efforts focused on creating the right response is key to a successful design. Let’s take a look at designing to evoke a positive response.

When you boil it down, a designer’s job is to communicate. If we can create a work of art as well, that’s great, but not at the expense of the message. Start with the two most important questions before beginning a design: “Who is this for?” and “What is it intended to do?” As a designer, sometimes it’s easy to just start designing something. Resist that urge! Take a moment to wrap your head around it.

Remember that people operate on feelings more than logic, so take the time to find the right feel to convey your message.

Once you’ve got grip on the “who” and the “what,” let’s move on to the “how.” And by how, I mean how to get your audience to respond. Remember, that’s the goal. The best way to evoke a response is not always the most obvious way. The old ways have worn thin and aren’t as effective any more. The web has changed all that. A quick search for reviews dispels outrageous claims, and it’s almost impossible to shock people any more.

So what’s a designer to do?

1. Find the heart. I believe beneath all the hype and the e-news blasts from marketing departments, there lies something genuine in almost every product or service. It’s not always what it should be, but it’s there. Case in point: I have many CDs that are passionately played by less than amazing musicians. The heart of the music is there, but the technical ability isn’t. The passion sold me, not the rock solid timing and pitch.

2. Speak plainly. Record yourself reading your copy out loud (words in a “starburst” should be yelled =D) and listen to it. If it sounds stupid to you, it sounds stupid to us. Throw out your marketing speak and catchy buzzwords and just talk.

3. Break out all your tools. If you are like me, I keep a few tools out and laying nearby for frequent use. But I have a whole toolbox full of pliers, wrenches, and ratchets just waiting to be used. Simply put, use all your resources. Your experience, your inspirations, and your talents are better tools than Photoshop and Illustrator. Break out the paints, find that old Polaroid camera, and make something that demands attention.

Remember that people operate on feelings more than logic, so take the time to find the right feel to convey your message. Feeling is first from the imagery and secondly from the copy. Get these two together and you’ve got yourself a compelling piece of work that conveys the message and initiates the right response.

Oh, and don’t forget to tell them to do something about this great feeling they now have. I have seen too many otherwise effective designs go to waste because no one bothered to tell me I could go buy their amazing new thing. Phone numbers. Websites. Make sure they are there. Do it for the kids.

What are some of the ways you evoke a response from your designs? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment.

January 16, 2008



  1. I actually thought your graphic with the dog hanging it’s head out the window was a vector file. Just the way it’s cropped and the contrast, I hope dark backgrounds make a bit of a comeback. It wasn’t until about the third time that I looked at it that I figured out, hey it’s just a photo with some text over it. Is that a Spaniel of some sort (looks like a great pal) smile

  2. It does have a bit of that over the top vector look. I hadn’t really noticed that. I thought I was a Brittany Spaniel but honestly I’m not sure. Anyone out there a Spaniel expert?

  3. check this for typos
    - technically
    - “what”,
    - staburst
    - cd’s

  4. Thanks for catching those Jan. Are you an editor by chance?  wink

  5. Thanks,  I enjoyed the read.. please continue posting great blogs!

  6. Oh no, spam has reared it’s ugly head, what to do to keep it to a minimum.
    Edit it out’s about all you can do?
    Kick it’s butt dawg!

  7. Your site is very convenient in navigation and has good design.

  8. I think one of the keys to evoking a response is making sure that the call to action is easy to find, and easy to use. If it’s a form, keep it brief. If it’s a phone number, make sure it’s big and bold!

  9. This comment was smacked down by the Iron Fisted Spam Punisher here at FortySeven Media. He delights in keeping this blog spam free!

    Please enjoy this haiku instead:

    With an Iron Fist
    All Spam Is Thusly Smitten
    Word To Your Mother

  10. I don’t have the source file anymore actually. There is just the version in this post with the words overlaid on it. I am not entirely sure where it came from to begin with.

  11. Nice article! I enjoyed reading it!

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