Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Oct 31, 2019

When you think of creative design, what comes to mind? Something visual? A design show on HGTV? What people don’t often realize is the depth of psychology and science that’s behind every aspect of design. Our guest today, Ross Johnson, turns everything you think you know about design upside down

Ross is the owner and CEO of 3.7 Designs, a full-service digital marketing company. His goal is to provide innovative solutions that incorporate his 6 layers of design. He’s an expert on web design, web development, SEO, and much more. Listen to this episode of Just the Tips for his utilization of psychology in design. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:00] We introduce Ross Johnson
  • [3:30] His background in design
  • [6:00] Why did he get into web-design?
  • [7:15] Does design matter and why?
  • [10:30] The 6 layers of design
  • [20:00] Applications in everyday life
  • [25:00] Everything you do needs to be by design

Everything is by design, even if it’s not by design

I’m not trying to be cryptic here, I promise. Ross pointed out that every decision you make—or don’t make—is the process of design. Waking up, brushing your teeth, scheduling appointments and doing your job is part of the process of designing your life. 

Ross defines design as intentionally taking steps towards a desired outcome.

The process of design, then, is defining the steps you need to take to reach the desired outcome. If you’re building a website—what is the purpose of it? What do you want to get out of it? As you ask yourself defining questions it helps you reach your goal.

The 6 Layers of creative design

Most often, people think of creative design as just that—a creative process. Design is certainly the process of creation, but there is a science to it. Design isn’t just what something looks like. In fact, according to Ross, design mirrors the scientific process. You define a hypothesis, test it, and make changes to achieve your desired result.

Ross defines 6 layers of design, which he refers to as the “design hierarchy of needs”. It’s based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

  1. Functionality: Does it function as it’s supposed to?
  2. Reliability: Does it produce the outcome I want?
  3. Usability: Is it easy to use?
  4. Proficiency: Does it provide something useful?
  5. Communication: Is it communicating what I need it to?
  6. Emotion: Does it evoke the emotion desired?

Ross, Dean and I talk about his concept in-depth, so keep listening. 

What emotions do you want to evoke? 

The emotional layer of the hierarchy can be further broken down into three layers: Visceral, Behavioral, and Reflective. When designing a website, Ross breaks every piece of the process down by the 6 layers and dives deep into the emotional layer.

  1. Visceral: This is a “gut” response that you immediately have when you experience something. It’s a central nervous system response, such as fear, disgust, joy, etc.
  2. Behavioral: The emotional response when actively doing something—the sense of satisfaction you get when being productive. 
  3. Reflective: This is a conscious reaction. How does your website create a sense of identity, prestige, nostalgia, etc.?

Knowing what emotions you want to evoke as you’re creating your website affects every layer of the design process and what it looks like visually. This includes layout, color, wording and more. 

What do Fireball and Swedish Meatballs have in common?

We chat about IKEA, and how they are a great example of using design to differentiate themselves in the industry. Their showroom is unique and one of a kind. But they could certainly benefit from applying the design hierarchy of needs to their business model. The instructions to build a piece of furniture leaves you wishing they sold Fireball with their furniture.

But they’ve sure nailed their design process with their Swedish Meatballs!

But if IKEA took their process and adjusted it ever so slightly to create detailed and understandable instructions it would positively impact their business. Everything you do has to be designed with the user experience in mind. There is always something you can do to tweak your designs to better meet people's needs. 

Resources & People Mentioned

Musicfor “Just The Tips” is titled, “Happy Happy Game Show” by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Connect With James and Dean

James P. Friel:

Dean Holland:

Audio Production and Show notes by