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The Business and Beauty of Simplicity

At Daggerwing Group, we believe creativity is a fundamental element of all organizational changes. We emphasize the importance of incorporating creativity into every client project because we recognize that creativity helps to change behavior and enhances people’s willingness to accept change. Understanding how and why the brain responds to creativity can help businesses better understand the customer and employee experience. 

Imagine standing in front of two ads. The one to your left has an extensive color palette, there’s a range of different shapes and the foreground and background are littered with different blocks of copy – all yelling at you for your attention. Now turn to face the second ad. The entire canvas is one solid color. The only copy block is white and massive. You read the headline and immediately understand the story. Do you feel calmer when looking at the second ad? Do you feel it is more impactful?

If you answered “yes,” it’s most likely because of the connection between our eyes and brain. And it’s important to provoke this connectedness when we want to inspire and create. Our brain works in ways that make understanding our environment easier on us. It digests information through focused intentions, exploring a variety of assets like visuals and stories. Science supports this theory; straightforward visuals and minimalism through creative is more effective when attempting to send a message. Simplicity is proven to be an effective way of communication and can result in higher acceptance rates when change is happening. “About 65% of our population learns faster with visuals and would rather engage with information that is connected to visual elements.”1 [Importantly], “90% of everything that comes to our mind is triggered by visual stimuli.”2 So why is simplicity a strategy we forget to take advantage of?

The word simple does not always have a positive connotation. People may think “simple” translates to “the easy way out,” lacking, or minimal. While this is fair in some situations, simplicity is also an efficient, thought-provoking and necessary form of narration. Simple can look effortless on the outside, but condensing information and visuals down so that they are easily understood takes a lot of work. A creative’s purpose is to provide a visual journey designed to attract and guide the viewer’s attention through their work. If simplicity gives the viewer an opportunity to connect with the creative in a personal way, and understand its purpose, why do we continue to accept visual clutter?

Without visual clutter, we are able to analyze information effectively. When we are given too many options, we feel pressured to pick “the right one” and end up abandoning the entire choice that’s in front of us. Let’s take jam for example. Two psychologists – Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper – conducted a study that analyzed the behavior of shoppers with a variety of jam flavors. On one day, they provided shoppers with 24 jam options at the market, and on the other, six jam choices. They found that people who only had six options were more likely to purchase the jam than the buyers with 24 options.3 When provided with fewer options, we are able to understand the entirety of the situation and make better decisions.

The same concept can be applied to a busy PowerPoint slide. When a slide is crowded with unimportant visual clutter, the core messaging is hidden. But by simplifying the design, we create an experience of understanding that ultimately leaves our clients feeling better about change.

When designing for organizational change, there shouldn’t be room for interpretation – you want the audience to connect on a personal level, but also have a clear understanding of the point that is being made. To do this, we apply elements of the Gestalt Principles. The principles consist of six factors, which exemplify how our brain rearranges visuals to make sense of them.

Here are three ways we use key aspects from the Gestalt Principles to simplify overwhelming information into visually pleasing creative:

1. REMOVE ALL UNNECESSARY INFORMATION: Get back to the core idea and purpose. Presenting more information does not necessarily make it more helpful or understandable. Sometimes, it’s distracting and takes away from the core ideas. By removing extra clutter and text, the audience focuses on and retains the main takeaway of the presentation. This allows people to concentrate on the main idea and gives them less information to process.

IN PRACTICE: While working on a town hall for a client, which was going to be broadcasted to the majority of the global team, we quickly noticed their main ideas were lost in overcrowded pages. Although very pertinent information, the main cry to push sales and focus on what’s working, was lost. We removed 80% of the copy and created these large splash pages throughout the town hall. They acted not only as a pause, but also as a wonderful chance for the team to be reminded of what mattered.

2. ORGANIZE INFORMATION INTO GROUPS THAT MAKE SENSE: This is the quickest way to make things simple and quick to process. It is helpful to divide into sections of three – longer than three steps can seem like a big commitment and the number three is a powerful memory aid. Think about phone numbers, social security numbers and credit card pins.

IN PRACTICE: We recently worked on a desk drop that was given to a team after a town hall that focused on restructuring. The pharma company wanted to ensure their employees didn’t feel bombarded with the new change but would feel comfortable adapting the way they worked moving forward. We ensured the design piece was easy to navigate and broke it down into three larger sections: why we’re changing, what’s changing and what this means to you.

3. EMPHASIZE THE FIRST INFORMATION YOU WANT THE VIEWER TO NOTICE: A helpful strategy is to include color in the content. Colors can trigger responses hardwired in the human psyche. Combining color and emotion is a powerful storytelling tool – it creates a sensory impression. This will help give confidence to the viewer that they are correctly understanding and interpreting the content.

IN PRACTICE: While working with the dessert division of a food and beverage company, we had the chance to design a high-profile presentation for them. Our aim was not only to refine the messaging but also ensure that the employees would understand the tone. By bucketing main stats – three on a slide – we emphasized the main points and utilized colors to hone into the tone.

Simplifying content may seem risky when you need to include a lot of valuable information, but shifting the complexity to the right space can make each stage feel simpler and easier for the viewer to connect with. If you overload, there will be too many things to remember and too many decisions to make. Designing for simplicity leaves enough room for the interpreter to fill in details and creates a more meaningful experience. Simplicity is a powerful tool of narration, a strong voice, and a clear visual story that helps one hone into the real underlying story. Less really is more!

1 Jonny Czar. “The Power of Visual in Product Design,” August 11, 2019

2 Eric Jensen. Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching, 2008

3 Sheena S. Iyngar and Mark R. Lepper. “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?,” 2000

As an Associate Principal, Design Director Vanessa leads a team of graphic designers who specialize in bringing stories to life.​ Vanessa has worked on integrated project teams across the board in terms of industries and company sizes, and developed visual materials for clients in over a dozen countries. She has a special interest in the link between psychology and design – she knows the importance of ensuring that imagery, typography and the “feel” of content resonates with stakeholders. In fact, she might argue that the way the content is presented matters just as much as the content itself!​ Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design from OCADU.