Tag: persuasion

Are You Manipulated by Design?

Recently I had a message from a young Graphic Communication students about to graduate in need of some current designer’s viewpoints on her dissertation topic. Being someone who likes to help people whenever possible I answered her questions. This is the conversation that unfolded : –

Hi there! I was wondering if you would be able to answer 4 quick questions for me if you have a spare moment? I’m a third year Graphic Communication student and would really benefit from designers like yourself answering a few short questions to help me with my Dissertation!!Hope you can help! Thank you

Can you describe what ‘persuasion‘ means to you in terms of design?

emotions play a big part in being manipulated by design. picture shows how emotion puts  is into a situation that we desire to experience something, this time venice...but in las  vegas

Sure, persuasion for me is a subconscious effort when it comes to design, you don’t necessarily persuade people consciously through design you simply create a desire that is so immense that it becomes so unavoidably attractive that you are persuaded to act on the design whether it is a new product, a message or an interesting new architectural design. Persuasion is about tapping into our human emotions of desire and/or the hunger to improve our lives :).

 Can you describe what ‘manipulation’ means to you in terms of design?

Manipulation is similar to persuasion as every time we design something we are trying to manipulate people to act, we want to almost control the actions and thoughts of the viewer with our designs. Designers want to convince consumers through their own emotional experiences in life that they simply cannot live without our design, knowing it may correct a problem they have or have had,make them become more desirable or simple make them feel happier with their life. As designers we try to manipulate the customers to buy our product or service to enhance their experiences of life, albeit sometimes artificially.

 Describe a situation where you think you have been persuaded & manipulated by design

I am not sure when or if I have been persuaded by design. Being trained to think creatively, artistically and analytically you are constantly aware of design so it is difficult as a designer to be persuaded by ‘concious’ persuasion as we know that we are trying to be convinced to buy. Saying that, if a product is well designed ergonomically and I can see it is manufactured well then I am drawn to it more rather than through clever branding such as apple.

Maybe I have been persuaded or manipulated by design but without actually knowing about it because the best graphic design will only subtly persuade you without the viewer actually realising it is doing so. An example of this subtle manipulation is the marketing message in the Budweiser advert.

Example of subconcious manipulation in advertising

Budweiser used to sell mainly to white middle class Americans but they wanted to expand their market to include the young ethnic market so they released the wassup advert.

In this video every actor has a funny conversation where each friend says wassssuuuup and every one of these people are from the new market group targeted. The fact the advert is funny attracts everyone regardless of race and subconsciously makes it acceptable for people other than the white middle classes to drink Budweiser, a clever design by the advertisers of Budweiser.


There are many times when I look around and can see many manipulations and persuasive messages on billboards and shop windows that are so consciously trying to persuade that they have no effect on those who are creatively trained but like the advert above I found it fun and remember saying wassup to my friends yet didn’t realise the subliminal message that the company wanted to portray that their beverage was for everyone.

Therefore it is possible to suggest that we are being manipulated and persuaded to every day, whether a small advert on a website or a poster on the tube or told a believable marketing messages such as ‘Apple is the best in creating technological advances’, all things that we have been persuaded or manipulated into believing by advertisers and marketing firms.

So next time you are out and about just take a moment to study what you are looking at and be more prepared to analysis what the message is that is trying to be communicated to you to make you act in a certain way.

What are your views on persuasion and manipulation in design? Please comment in the box below.