on Intuitive Design

When I say intuitive design, I don’t mean just visual design or user interface work, I’m referring to a more general process of the design of all user interaction, be it look and feel or the written word, crafting your creative or message to appeal to a user’s intuition. Something that speaks to us at a level deeper than logic.

Not to start off too cliche or anything but, the dictionary defines intuitive as “knowable by intuition” and intuition as:

the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process

Intuition is kind of like instinct. It doesn’t come from your logical conscious, but rather from somewhere else. Repetition and ritual have a big part in this.

A certain familiarity — similarity to music one already knows — can play a role,” he explained. “Unfamiliar music doesn’t connect well. It’s harder to own, especially on first listen.”

For something to appeal to us on an intuitive level, it has to pass an admittedly weak logical “sanity” check and the human mind is such that it is easy to bypass even this cursory acknowledgement of reason. Centuries of history and billions of dollars in modern research have shown us the myriad of ways that mankind can be fooled.

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
Denis Diderot

We could spend all day going over examples and reasons for inducing self-deception, but thats a whole ‘nother post.

Two words spring to mind when thinking about intuition, truthiness and bellyfeel:

Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as “Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc.” The shortest rendering one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: “Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.” But this is not an adequate translation. … Only a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic acceptance difficult to imagine today.
George Orwell, 1984

Politicians and their consultants have spent years making “appeal to bellyfeel” a science. And they know that emotion and familiarity is far more important to intuition than “correctness”.

[The United States is] divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart. Consider Harriet Miers. If you ‘think’ about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination’s absurd. But the president didn’t say he ‘thought’ about his selection… he said nothing about her brain? He didn’t have to. He feels the truth about Harriet Miers. And what about Iraq? If you think about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn’t taking Saddam out feel like the right thing?
Stephen Colbert

Well known triggers can short circuit reason and skip right to the intutition. Things like fear or pride. These hot-buttons come in 3 layers.

  • Instinctual motivators common to the entire race: basic needs and Jungian archetypes.
  • Triggers common to various cultures, as Dr Rapille works with.
  • Unique issues that drive specific individual’s Fruedian unconscious.

But thats a whole ‘nother post.

It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before