I used to love watching Sesame Street when I was younger. (True confession: I still like watching it if I’m sick in bed. It’s comfort television.)
Let’s Play a Game
Sesame Street had a few regular features that were great training for a graphic designer and small business marketer-to-be. My favorite was “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.”
In this feature, the screen was divided into four sections. In each section, an image would appear. All of the images would be part of a “group,” except one. Our job as viewers was to decide which image didn’t belong in the group. See if you can figure out this example:
Did you guess the onion? Yes? Splendid! Three images are fruits, and the fourth is a vegetable.
Now let’s try another:
How did you do? I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the African Weaver Finch in the upper right corner is the only species not native to North America, so it’s the image that doesn’t belong.
What? You didn’t get that one?
What Were You Thinking?
Here’s what you might have been thinking when you looked at the four bird images.
“Well, they’re all birds, so there’s no difference there.”
“Wait! One of the images is in black and white! Maybe that’s the difference!”
“Three images are facing right, and one is facing left. Maybe that’s the difference!”
“Three of the birds have a dark beak, and one has a light beak. Maybe that’s the difference!”
That’s a lot of thinking, and in the end, you might not have arrived at the correct answer. The reason the first set of images was easy to figure out is that the images were consistent in every way. They are all silhouetted against a white background, and their relative size is the same.
The second set of images isn’t like that at all. Two are photos, one is a painting and one is an illustration. One is in black and white and the others are color. Three show the full bird, and one is cropped in on the bird’s head.
Too Much Information
All of those differences gave you too much extraneous information to process. You were so busy looking at the differences between the images, you couldn’t process what was pictured. (I know: even if you could have processed it, you may not have picked up on the difference unless you are a birder. I didn’t promise to make it easy!)
Be Direct and Decisive
When making design decisions for your small business marketing – whether it’s combining typefaces, or grouping images, or deciding how to crop and color photos – make your choices obvious. Don’t make things different arbitrarily: do it with a purpose in mind.
And if you’re going to make them different, make the difference really obvious. Otherwise, it looks like a mistake.
If you’re going to make something a different size, make it much bigger or much smaller. If you’re going to combine typefaces, make one thin and light, and the other dark and chunky. If you’re going to choose colors to combine, try pulling them from opposite sides of the color wheel.
These kinds of decisive design choices make your marketing information easier to process. It gives the viewer less to think about by making your intention obvious. Doing this allows them to focus on your content, rather than trying to interpret your presentation.
Try it! Don’t be afraid to be decisive and bold in your choices. It’s the fastest way to leave wishy-washy marketing behind.