Monday, July 8, 2024

Straighten Product Presentation Up & Across

Of the range of characteristics determining the appeal of a song, you’d think the angle of lines on the album cover would be less important than the style of the music. And you’d be right. The fact that the angle of those lines makes any difference at all seems strange. Yet that’s what a Vilnius University and University of Groningen study documented. And this carries a message for product presentation more generally.
     In one of their experiments, the researchers asked participants to evaluate album artwork and, while looking at an image of the album, listen to a song from that album. The band name and song were chosen to be unfamiliar to the participants. For some of the participants, the album cover included a grid of perfectly horizontal and vertical lines—a cardinal design. For the other participants, the cover included the straight lines at a 45-degree angle—an oblique design. Keeping the album cover in view while the song plays duplicates what’s done by streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora.
     Each participant was told they should listen to the song for as long as they wanted. The people exposed to the cardinal album design chose to listen about 42% longer than did those exposed to the oblique design. Further data analyses suggested that this difference was due to song appeal induced by the orientation of lines on the album cover.
     In another of the researchers’ analyses, the cardinality characteristic of each of hundreds of actual music albums reflecting a range of music styles was measured and statistics about the album’s success in the marketplace were gathered. It turned out that albums with covers having higher cardinality had achieved better sales.
     The researchers relate their findings to past studies showing how respected landscape and portrait paintings include many more vertical and horizontal lines than angled lines, and how people will gaze at a painting for a longer time when the painting is displayed in a cardinal compared to oblique orientation. The explanation is that our brains find a cardinal orientation easier to mentally process, and people usually prefer what is easier to process. The lesson beyond album covers and fine art is to keep information simple for the shopper and customer to process.
     There are exceptions. Sometimes angles or curves work better to portray enthusiasm or femininity. But as a rule, keep product messages straight up and across.

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