Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Visceral, Behavioral and Reflective Design and Branding

I was reading the Diego Rodriguez's metacool blog and came across a post from a couple months ago. I'm in the process of developing and launching a new urban outdoor footwear brand and found his post very helpful and insightful. It seems like you either intuitively get certain things about business, marketing, design, or whatever other discipline you're in, or you don't. If you don't, you should find someone who does, such that everything's done properly. With that in mind, here's the basic gist of Donald Norman's model of human Cognition.

"If you want a successful product, test and revise. If you want a great product, one that can change the world, let it be driven by someone with a clear vision. The latter represents more financial risk, but it is the only path to greatness." -- Donald Norman

As Rodriguez summarizes, "a quick outline of his [Donald Norman] model of human cognition. First, we take in our external environment using two channels, one Visceral, which is the realm of things like looks, feel and smell; the other Behavioral, which is what allows us to create movement and take action. Operating on top of those channels is our Reflective processor, which Norman describes as the “… level that conscious and the highest levels of feeling, emotions, and cognition reside.” Most of what we call “branding” happens at the Reflective level".

Therefore, the three primary steps in human cognition:
  • Visceral - the aesthetic
  • Behavioral - action
  • Reflective - emotions, feeling, and pure consciousness

So, for effective writing or tools of persuasion, you have Logos [Logic], Pathos [emotion], Ethos [credibility]. are the three steps in human cognition/design the same? I suggest that Visceral=Ethos, Behavioral=Logos, Reflective=emotion. Now, I must admit I've never read the book. I'm only going based on a couple blog posts I've read on the topic. Visceral appears to be Ethos, or Credibility, because as soon as someone witnesses good design, instant credibility is formed. All of a sudden, the viewer expects the designed object to meet a certain standard of intuitiveness, ease of use, efficiency, etc. Once this credibility is established, there's a logic behavior that must occur (i.e. Behavioral=Logos). The viewer then has to interact with the designed object. If the interaction validates the initial Visceral impression of the viewer, then the viewer experiences a reflective moment where they are validated on numerous levels. They have then connected to the designed object, brand, experience, etc.

The tough thing is design is constantly evolving. What was cool design a couple years ago may appear mundane now. I'm reminded of an article I read years ago about Oakley and their design process with their sunglasses. The designer would stress for weeks and months over the minutia. They would move design lines less than millimeters in various directions in order to ensure the most perfect fitting pair of sunglasses. This over zealous focus on product design has created an empire wherein Oakley is the definitive brand and product. Oakley, by far, is definitive emotional brand in the sunglasses space. No other brand even comes close.


gollyjess said...

Very cool insights Bret. So do you feel you are the one who "gets it," or are you searching for that person?

Anonymous said...

Located along the Wasatch Front of Salt Lake City...Does this mean you have a mobile, trailer-based "factory" that moves to different spots along the mountain range and make a few pair of shoes at each stop???? I am imagining a cadre of gypsy shoe-makers outfitted with portable metal tables, stopping at a mall parking lot, busting out the equipment, erecting a sign -- "Kuru, new footwear for the modern man" -- come see them custom-made right before your eyes as you wait "along the Wasatch Front of Salt Lake City" Do I have the right image?
Bro. Clark -- Noblesville :)