psyborg® blog

Building Better Humans Project Podcast

Building Better Humans Project Podcast

Building Better Humans Project Podcast

Building Better Humans Podcast

I was recently invited to be a guest on the Building Better Humans podcast hosted by Glenn Azar.

Glenn and I have been working together for over 6 years. I met Glenn on the Kokoda Track back in 2009, where Glenn was my trek leader and we have not stopped collaborating since.

In his podcast series, Glenn interviews successful business owners and entrepreneurs from all over Australia, so naturally I was honoured to be invited as a guest.

In episode 15, I share my 15-20 year journey which includes my failures, key learnings and my vision going forward. Glenn has a punchy interview style which keeps things moving as he gets to the point on various topics discussed.

I’d love you to listen to it and let me know how you think it went?

You can check out the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud, or even listen to it from the SoundCloud player below.

Soundcloud Available on itunes
Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 2000 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel

The secret to creativity

The secret to creativity

The Secret to Creativity

Consider this Scenario…

Consider this, you are completely organised. Your life is compartmentalised, you have time separated for work, for play and for family. Everything in your life has a place to put it, so much so that it becomes automatic to find something. Your life is so organised that you consider it robotic and boring. Your on the edge of finding something to do because you’ve done everything so you potter around, you experiment a little and you begin to play. In playing you combine ideas from different disciplines, different topics and opposing ends of the spectrum. You start to innovate, you start to be creative.

Now consider the alternative, you have a big job on at work, you are in your office and have just started to write up a brief on your Mac, you go to grab a pen to jot down something, the pen isn’t there, you search the top draw, scribble with one that doesn’t work, check the next draw (you have to move some paper and magazines to see around them, stabbing yourself with a discarded paper clip in the meantime and pull out a pair of scissors you were looking for a week ago), no luck, go over to the side table and find a red pen, not ideal but that’ll do, back to the desk and jot down those four words you needed to remember for later in the brief, turn back to the job at hand, what was it you were writing? Oh yes that’s right… back into it.

Now it may have only been 5 minutes or less that passed but your train of thought was also disturbed and a lot of work could have been done in that time.

Now back to the ideal; you need to write something down, you grab a pen from its home on your desk and write down what you need to, back on with the work. Wow, I even feel better writing it down that way!

I am a firm believer that being organised is the secret to creativity. I have run my design studio for just on 10 years now and the more I become aware of how organised I am or can be, the easier I am able to switch into creative mode and therefore solve different client problems.


So, not only does an organised office, home or life mean less time spent searching for items but also less time worrying about things that have been misplaced; ‘I can’t find that document I need’. This worry can also transfer to the home environment too when it is playing on your mind because you still haven’t found it.

Being organised means having a ‘home’ for every item and knowing where that home is and always putting the item back in its home. Not just thrown into the top draw where you rummage around for it, a specific, easily accessible home for it.

The less time you spend finding things, or moving objects the more quality time you can spend on your work being creative. This means better productivity, less rush and therefore usually higher quality work, not to mention LESS STRESS.

I think it’s time to organise that office and work on strategies to keep it that way.

Being Organised Means More Creativity!

Organisation doesn’t only improve your productivity but also your creativity. Imagine you are an architect, if your mind is filled with thoughts of ‘where is that ruler, I need to find my eraser, where’s the sharpener’ and all this while creating a unique home design, how can you expect your mind to stay clear to allow the creative flare to take over.

Even while writing this blog, if the phone rings, someone talks to me or I stop for a moment I have to re-read the paragraph and re-‘find’ my train of thought. In my opinion creatives (that is creative people) need a clear mind, free from distractions and mess to get the best of their abilities out. To allow the brain the space it needs to be creative the physical environment needs to be clear also.

Being Organised Means More Productivity!

This may seem like a farfetched idea at first, but when you think about it, it actually makes complete sense.

Walking into a house or workspace filled with mess causes stress! And studies have proven this, the level of cortisol (stress levels) rise when people are confronted with mess and clutter. It has a negative effect on our emotions.

Imagine working in a place that lacks organisation, then going home to a house filled with clutter. It does not leave room for the important things to freely flow in our minds because we get too hung up on the physical surroundings when they are cluttered and disorganised.

A cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind.

Some Strategies to Get Organised!

I had the pleasure of chatting with Jo Carmichael, a psyborg® client and business owner of ‘All Sorted Out’. Jo is a professional organiser whom assists home and business owners with decluttering and implement strategies to stay organised.

Jo uses the konMarie method, which is a huge craze sweeping the UK and America and starting to come into Aussie homes too and Jo has a different view on this.

Jo says the decision should not be so much on ‘what can I throw out?’ but more about ‘what do I love and want to keep?’. Same thing? I guess it’s one of those glass half empty scenarios. Rather than looking at it like I have to get rid of heaps of possessions to de-clutter my life, you look at it in a positive way ‘what things are important that I need to keep and what things bring me happiness and I want to keep?’ Then you simply get rid of the things that you do not need or that do not bring you happiness. We hold on to many old clothes, books, papers and keepsakes that really no longer play a role in our lives and we could discard. Let these items go!

Jo says to de-clutter you need to have a ‘keep pile’ and a ‘discard pile’. Only once you have discarded the items that no longer have a place in your home can you start the organisation process.

Jo says that many creatives will physically clean their desk tops, removing papers & wiping it clean, before commencing a new project which helps to kick start their focus and vigour.  Just like making our bed kick starts the day, you will definitely be less inclined to snooze off once the pillows are all in place.

An Organised Home also helps with your Business and Creativity!

So you have an organised business and that’s where your work is done, why should your home also be organised and clutter free? Well good question. I think this is important because work is just that, where you work, and home is where you should be able to recharge, relax, rest and just chill out! Yes homes, the place you come to after a day hard at work, should be a peaceful place you want to be.

When you finish work you don’t want to come home to a cluttered environment filled with ‘stuff’ you want to come home to a clean, peaceful area where you can sit in your favourite chair and relax for a while.

Having a more relaxing and pleasant home life will help your creative outcomes too. You will have less worry, better sleeps and dare I say it, that overall Zen feeling. Your mind will be free for the important things in life. I really do believe this to be true.

Jo says we do need to de-clutter our homes. She said that these days we can get manufactured goods at such low prices and people buy more than they need. They fill their homes with ‘stuff’ that clutters areas making them look messy. This ‘stuff’ has no role in our homes, no need to be there! We need to get rid of it from our homes and make space for the things that are important to us, that of which recharges us.

Being organised in your workplace is a gift to yourself and business potential whereas being organised in your home is a gift to you and your family.

We need to bring organisation into our lifestyles to create a space for productivity and creativity. This will help work outcomes, home life and stress levels! Happy days.

Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 2000 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel

Psychology and advertising

Psychology and advertising

Psychology and Advertising

Psychology and Advertising

I recently met with Brendon Knott, a Clinical Psychologist with Esteem Psychology and the brains behind Newcastle Comedy, both being long standing psyborg® clients. We chatted about how psychology is used in advertising and how advertising effects the psyche.

We took a peak behind the curtain of advertising where we discuss how advertisements use communication to stir emotion with the intent to change human behaviour. We also look at how psychological techniques are used by brands to move people’s behaviour towards their products.

Advertising is used to Stir Emotion

Advertisements are created to make people feel something and/or change people’s behaviour in a way that benefits the company. From a psychological point of view, advertisers use specific stimuli in their advertisement to elicit certain emotional and behavioural responses within consumers. These responses are technically called ‘stimulus functions’.

For example, if we see a cup of coffee as the feature of an advertisement we see that it is made up of various stimuli; the colour, shape and smell associated. When people view the stimuli associated with a cup of coffee most peoples immediate response is similar, but we also have more unique reactions that develop from personal experiences with coffee. For example the coffee cup may remind you of a coffee date you have later that day, or the smell imagined from the ad may remind you of your father as he drank a coffee every morning. In advertising, companies tap into these stimuli and familiar experiences, enhance them and create stories around them so you engage with the intention to sell more product.

Advertisers can influence consumers by attempting to elicit a positive emotional state, or by attempting to tap into more aversive emotional states. An advertisement may feature images of happy families, big smiles, desirable people, or people having fun or experiencing social reinforcement, which may all elicit positive emotions. In the same way, advertisers may play on negative emotions, trying to bring the consumer’s behaviour under aversive control.

In behaviour under aversive control, the threat or presence of an aversive stimulus influences behaviour. In the case of advertising, the threat of social exclusion, the threat of not being accepted or not being judged as cool or beautiful may be potent motivating factors. People with pre-existing anxieties or insecurities in these areas may be even more vulnerable to this type of advertising, believing that the product being advertised may provide them with the emotional relief of these fears and anxieties.

Advertising tries to appeal to the Majority

Advertisers choose to use generic universally appealing elements to sell products. For example they use actors in adverts that are desirable, good looking and well groomed because consumers want to be like them, or see themselves as becoming more like them if they were to use the product or brand. So toothpaste ads have good-looking people who have straight, white teeth with a perfect smile. Advertisers want consumers to believe that they will have a smile like that if they were to buy this product. As a consumer, when you go to the shop and see two toothpastes side by side, probably containing the exact same ingredients, yet you choose the product from the advertisement with the belief that it is the better product that will give you the best outcome, often paying an extra 50% for a product that will give you the same outcome as it’s competitor.

This is interesting, as it means that consumers do not usually make choices based on the actual quality of a product or its actual superiority over other products. This information is often not even available to consumers (especially as advertising companies are unlikely to be overly truthful in this area). Most often it is other factors which come to bear on the decision to choose one product over another. Some of these factors may be in the consumer’s awareness, and some may not be noticed at all (see my blog article on the Neuroscience of Branding for more information about this point).

Advertising uses Rule Governed Behaviour

Rule governed behaviour is a psychological term used to describe the human capacity to learn something new, or to engage in a behaviour without having any prior experience or learning with that behaviour. An example might be if someone tells you “You should try this new drink, it’s absolutely amazing!”. If you go ahead and try the drink, this is an example of rule governed behaviour, as you have no prior learning which confirms that the drink is amazing. We do not simply follow any rule given to us by any person however, and we must see the person presenting us with the rule as being credible in some way to maximise the chance that we will follow the rule. Rule governed behaviour is one of the most common behavioural strategies advertisers utilise to get consumers to engage in a new behaviour (i.e. buying their product if they have not done so before).

So just imagine this, you want to buy some pain medication and a new product hits the market, there is an advertisement of an old, homeless looking man who looks like he might have ‘had a few’ that day recommending the medication. Would you buy it? The majority probably wouldn’t. Our brain automatically sees this as being not credible and dismisses the product, but if we shave the mans 3 day growth, give him a wash up and put a white coat on him, he now looks like a pharmacist or Doctor. Would you buy it from him now? We have all been culturally shaped to learn internal rules about doctors, and scientists being smart, informed and trustworthy. Therefore, the more advertisers can make their actors look like doctors or scientists, the more likely they are to possess enough source credibility to prompt us to follow the rule laid out in the ad. A credible looking person selling a product they appear to have knowledge about, of course we are more likely to buy this product.

Interestingly, advertisers could grab anyone and just make them look the part. This applies not only to doctors and scientists, but also to other forms of source credibility. For example, using an adult authority figure may have lower source credibility to an audience of children or teenagers. For this audience, source credibility might be established by using children or teenagers made to most closely resemble the peer group of the audience. In either case, if the consumer’s behaviour is directed towards buying the product, with no prior experience of the product, it is as a result of rule governed behaviour.


People also respond better when they can relate to a person, if they can’t relate to a person in an ad they are less likely to use the product. So adverts aimed at a certain societal class will often use actors and make them look/speak in a way that aims to that specific socio-economic group.

For example an advertisements for Myer which is aimed towards a more astute market advertise in a way that makes their products seem more exclusive. People are dressed in designer clothes and speak in a sophisticated manner.

Compare this to a Kmart advertisement which is aimed at a broader socio-economic group, they display their items as affordable and people are jumping around being silly. There are countless differences yet both advertisements work for the market they are trying to reach and therefore relatable.


Familiarity is also a big seller! Familiarity is the reason why advertisers pay Hollywood actors the big bucks to be in ads, because consumers watch movies with these actors in them, so consumers have a sense of ‘knowing’ the actor. As actors are generally desirable people, therefore familiarity with the actor along with the goal of becoming more like them will and does sell more of the product. George Clooney is coming to mind at present, at least once a day I am seeing a certain coffee ad with him as the ‘star’. It must be working for the company as I think they are up to at least the 5th round of adverts with him in them; all of them pretty much giving the same message, if you have this product in your hands you will pretty much be as desirable as George Clooney! No I am not joking, watch the ads, you can be as cool as George! The latest of the Nespresso adverts also casts Jack Black, the coffee makes him as cool as George Clooney, truly!

While researching some of these advertisement I found that Mat Damon was paid a whopping 3 million dollars for 20 seconds in the add! That is $150 000 a second! Obviously using those familiar actors sells product or the company wouldn’t do it. Honestly after watching a few of the ads I have fallen victim and want a Nespresso coffee machine now! I could be as cool as George.

Another way familiarity is used to sell products is when companies use the same actors (not necessarily famous ones) over and over so we become familiar with that actor advertising that product. The same works with product brands and ‘slogans’ i.e ‘Maybe your born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline’, our brains like familiarity, so the more we see/hear something the more we respond and begin to trust. Advertisers need to make brands familiar and use consistency in their branding to draw in customers.

Strange as it may sound, this advertising strategy actually taps into our ancient, evolutionary survival mechanisms. Our brains learn to associate familiarity with safety. When we are exposed to something new, for the first time, we often experience higher levels of anxiety, uncertainty or nervousness.

Lets wind back the clock 100,000 years and think of our distant ancestors. If you were a caveman and you came across a new cave, what would you do? Would you dive right in without a care in the world? The current thinking from evolutionary psychologists would suggest that the cavemen who dived right in probably didn’t live long enough to pass on their genes to us. Who were the cavemen that survived? Most likely, they were the ones who saw the new cave, and felt a sense of fear, knowing that there could be danger inside. These cavemen sat and watched the cave, did not approach it, and maybe over time, after a few days of not seeing any nasty predators coming in or out of the cave, they might have gotten a few of their tribe to come with them for a cautious look. Even after spending a few days in the cave, the caveman might still have worried whether a predator might be coming back. After a few weeks, and months however, the fear would gradually dissipate. Daily exposure to the cave being safe, over and over again, increased the familiarity with the cave, and reinforced the notion that it was safe. We apply the same kind of learning to new people, which can easily be seen in the behaviour of children around strangers, and how this gradually changes over time as their anxiety decreases and the person becomes more familiar and trusted. With increased familiarity, we are more likely to approach novel people and situations. The main point here, is that our brain directly equates familiarity and safety, unless our learning history tells us otherwise. From an advertising perspective, the company wants you to ‘approach’ their product, or make behavioural moves towards it, and familiarity is a great tool to elicit this response.


We also like authenticity these days. The reason I say ‘these days’ is because looking back to my grandparents generation they seemed to use very unrealistic ‘fake’ stereo-typing. I’m talking about those adverts with the perfect housewife with the beautiful dress and perfect hair using her ‘Hoover’ vacuum cleaner having the house looking perfect. I do not for one minute believe the woman of the 50’s looked that good while cleaning, and I just have to draw your attention to the high heals, the advertisers have a woman vacuuming in high heals… no more needs to be said.

Audiences these days are a little more savvy too. Even though current advertising uses the same strategy of trying to convince consumers that they would be happier if they bought the product, they would certainly be much more subtle with that message, as opposed to “You’ll be happier with a HOOVER!”.

These days our adverts are more authentic and real. This helps us relate to the situation the ad is giving us and more likely to use the product. I am thinking about those washing powder ads (I can’t remember the brand), that has a man show up to a random woman’s door (sorry to burst your bubble but these are staged and not really random) and she finds her sons white footy shorts covered in grass stains (there were many other examples but this is the one I am remembering) and the mother puts the powder on them, gives it a little scrub and WOW! The stain is gone.

Now every mother that has a son/daughter who plays a sport (or even just gets grass stains) can relate to that ad! The thing I also noticed in these ads was the fact that the house wasn’t perfectly clean, there was washing on the floor and while the mother did still look nice, she was in every day clothes, so no high heals while doing the washing, in fact she was probably bare foot! This is very different to the dolled up house wife of the 50’s. Nowdays these ads are more likely to sell products and more people can relate to them. Authentic, real life situations make ads more relatable and now with the rise of social media and the ability to peer into our friends lives, this is becoming event more important.

Psychologically speaking, the concept of relatability taps into the psychological processes of stimulus generalisation, and natural reinforcing contingencies. That sounds like a bunch of psycho-babble but the concepts are very straightforward.

Stimulus generalisation refers to the fact that human learning is often quite general. For example, if you get bitten badly by a dog, then you will most likely develop a sense of fear and nervousness when you are around ANY dog, not just the specific one that bit you. When we learn to respond to a specific stimuli, this learning tends to generalise to any stimuli that are similar enough to the original.

The concept of natural reinforcing contingencies relates to the fact that for learning to generalise from an artificial context (such as an ad) to our daily lives, the kinds of reinforcement we experience in the artificial context should be similar to those we experience in our daily lives. For example, the consequence of using the washing powder to clean mud off the footy shorts is a consequence we would find reinforcing and even if we don’t have children who play sport, the example is similar enough to any experience of cleaning dirty clothes to generalise for most people. If we are able to relate to the people or situations in the ad, and if the situations and consequences they experience are similar to the situations and consequences that we experience in our lives, the learning from the ad is more likely to generalise into our daily life.

Relevance is Important

Behaviours are not always equally reinforcing, meaning that advertisements will not always be equally effective, even for the same person. So a fast food ad may have zero affect on someone if they have just consumed dinner, where as seeing the same ad the next day when they are famished could result in a completely different behaviour. The same can be applied to anything, so seeing ads about a gardening service may have no affect until you are in need of a gardener. This is where target marketing becomes relevant, positioning the advertising in context of where people are looking for or are in the vicinity of the product for sale.

Therefore advertisers can time ads to be more relevant. For example a billboard ad may be set up 10 minutes before you arrive at the place, this means 10 mins to think about it and decide you are in fact going to stop there! Or a radio ad that sells something aimed at stay at home mums may be played around school drop off and pick up times, or TV ads may be shown during certain programs to sell a product that relates to what is being watched, i.e. car advertisements being played during the Bathurst 5000. All these circumstances are strategically thought out to get the best consumer response.

This strategy takes advantage of the psychological concept of Establishing Operations (EOs). Establishing Operations are stimuli which temporarily alter the reinforcing or punishing properties of certain consequences. As we said, feeling full temporarily weakens the ability of food to act as a reinforcer, whereas a strong feeling of hunger temporarily strengthens the capacity of food to be reinforcing.

Advertising Works

These are just a few of the strategies advertisers use to tap into our psyche to change consumer behavior and sell their products! Advertisers use emotion, stereotypes, rule governed behavior, relatability, familiarity, authenticity and relevance to engage us and change our behaviors.

I have found while researching this topic that many of these things work! I want a coffee machine, and kind of want to remember what company sells the washing powder that gets out grass stains so I can buy some! I am concerned that some ads using the desirable people of the world leave us feeling a little inadequate but I think this is just because we put this pressure on ourselves.

Advertisers will continue to use whatever strategy works to sell their product and I hope you are now more aware of what is going on behind the curtain!

Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 2000 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel

The Neuroscience of Branding

The Neuroscience of Branding

The Neuroscience of Branding

The Neuroscience of Branding

I caught up with Shannon Bosshard, a young and energetic PHD student whom I previously connected with when he approached me to help him with his new business venture, Neuro Consulting Australia, where I am helping him set up his new website.

Shannon’s new venture, Neuro Consulting Australia, is a unique service, one of a kind in Australia, so naturally I found this service to be very interesting and wanted to learn more.

We decided to catch up over a beer so I could learn more about Neuroscience and how it can be used to improve graphic design, interface design and branding, topics close to the psyborg® heart.

Shannon was kind enough to introduce me to Neuroscience and its application. Here’s what I learned…

So what is Neuroscience anyway?

As it stands, the human brain is the most complex living structure we know of. There is so much we know about the brain and how it works and still so much to learn. Neuroscience is the study of this complex mass of tissue.

Neuroscience has shown that most of our decision-making is automatic, intuitive and instinctive – and it’s made in the ‘rapid-response’ part of our brains.

In relation to graphic design and branding, consumer-neuroscience, otherwise known as neuromarketing, looks at how consumers perceive brands and other marketing related stimuli. It is widely known that up to 95% of behaviour is in some way driven by non-conscious processes. With regards to consumer behaviour, consumers make most of their decisions unconsciously, in an automatic, rapid response manner, and neuroscience is the practice of measuring the unconscious.

Neuroscience has shown us that there are in fact two types of attitudes, those that are conscious and those that are non-conscious. Traditionally, marketing strategies have focussed on understanding and interpreting attitudes at a conscious level. These attitudes are often polluted by thoughts. For example, if asked why you like a certain brand, it can often be difficult to articulate your answer. This is because the act of thinking pollutes your response. Neuroscience is able to solve this issue by tapping into the brain and measuring responses that aren’t tainted by thoughts.

Traditionally, marketing companies have been asking consumers directly through market research & focus groups, why they do what they do and how they perceive and react to brands largely represented by graphic design. Neuroscience offers an alternative to this approach.

The problem with traditional market research is that it relies on two things – one, that consumers tell the truth, and two, that consumers know whether they like something or not. Unfortunately, existing literature suggests that consumers can’t really tell us what they are thinking at a non-conscious level with regards to a brand or design because in reality they don’t know. Shannon says that the brains automatic response is what really needs to be studied, and this can only be done by using the following neuro-scientific methods to truly view consumer reactions to branding and graphic design.

Physiological Response

When I hear ‘neuro’ I automatically think brain, but Neuroscientists also look at the physiological response to stimuli. A few different physiological responses are measured to view consumer responses including facial EMG, Skin Conductance and Heart Rate.

Facial EMG is done by placing electrodes around the eye to measure changes in the voltage caused by muscle contractions. These changes occur when we feel different emotions. Typically we blink more when we see something that we don’t like than when we are shown something we like. Facial EMG measures these changes and simply put, quantifies our emotional responses.


These muscle contractions can occur even if no visible changes to facial expression can be seen. So this tool is much more sensitive to changes in emotion than facial recognition software.

Facial EMG has recently been used to answer several design related questions. Through the use of this technology, researchers have found that different bottle shapes elicit significantly different emotional responses. When males and females were asked whether one of three bottle shapes were more appealing, participants verbally responded no. However, when eye blink magnitude was analysed, a medium sized, polygonal bottle was seen to be more unpleasant for males than for females. This is a perfect example of how shapes and design are interpreted and favourably assessed by each gender. Such findings can assist designers when choosing whether to tailor advertisements to a specific gender.

In graphic design, the aim of the designer is to elicit particular emotions which sit with the objectives of the brand. Designers do this by borrowing from culture, symbolism and colour theory. This would mean that if the designer has done their job right, technically this should be congruent with the results of a Facial EMG.

Skin Conductance is measured by placing electrodes on the fingers to measure the changes in the voltage caused by the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, also known as our body’s arousal system. This tool can be used to measure intensity of emotional arousal.

Whilst researching this I read an interesting fact that some studies have actually shown people to be more aroused by brands than they are by loved ones! Yes, they seem to be more emotionally invested in Coca Cola than they are to their husband or wife!

Heart Rate can be measured using an ECG (electrocardiogram) machine, this rate can be used as a measure of attention and arousal in response to the given brand or graphic design stimuli. Hence using an ECG one can determine scientifically if somebody is aroused by a design or not.

EEG (Electroencephalography)

EEGAnother method of measurement in the Neuroscientists toolkit is EEG. An EEG measures the subconscious brain response to stimuli directly. EEG maps the brain waves, showing researchers how the brain reacts to different images.

To me it looks like a bunch of squiggly lines on a computer screen, but I find it fascinating that Neuroscientists can marry this information up with other methods to determine our immediate response to what we are viewing. They know how our brain is responding to what we are seeing.

Shannon says, research suggests that EEG is capable of differentiating between liked and disliked stimuli. Generally, greater activity across left frontal hemispheres is associated with positive/approach related behaviour whilst greater left frontal activity is associated with negative/avoidance related behaviour which could easily be applied within design contexts.

Eye Tracking

eye trackingThe name says it all really. This method tracks eye movement which allows Neuroscientists to measure which stimuli captures attention, exactly how quickly the attention is caught and how long that attention is held. Link this up with the brain waves from the EEG and physiological responses and you can imagine how powerful this tool could be to a designer given an appropriate sample size.

Eye tracking is also used in interface design for digital applications such as websites where the eye tracking software records where the eyes are focused, generating a kind of heat map that when studied across a large sample size, can reveal patterns of attention. Graphic designers can use this information to improve their designs to suit the objectives of the interface.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Functional MRI’s can be used to see which areas of the brain are active when viewing certain stimuli. Studies have been done using an FMRI that show how well known brands stimulate a positive reaction in the brain with little effort, and less known brands stimulate a negative response in the brain with higher levels of activity. Researchers are integrating this technology with those mentioned above due to its bad temporal resolution (time). Basically there is a delay between when participants see something on a screen and when the MRI machine picks up the activity. In contrast, EEG and Facial EMG are instantaneous.

How can this be used in Graphic Design and Branding?

When chatting with Shannon, Shannon mentioned that the power of these techniques allow for a significantly smaller sample size (around 30 – 50 participants) which is significantly less than traditional market research as the results generated are hard-data, independent of bias. Shannon and his team can design experiments depending on the particular design or branding objective in mind with relatively less sample size.

According to Shannon, neuroscience allows researchers to quantify emotion. In doing so, questions such as ‘which design do you like more’, ‘why do you like this design more’ and ‘which product looks, feels, or smells better’, can be answered without asking a single question of the consumer.

I know when I design something, I try to tap into my non-conscious (sometimes referred to as intuition or gut feel) to determine what works and what does not work aesthetically and emotionally. For me these decisions come down to how I use colour, line, shape and space to arouse a particular emotion, response or perception that achieves the objectives of my client. Neuroscience offers a scientific method to measure these responses and certainly confirm or deny what designers are trying to achieve.

I hope this article has shed some light on the topic of Neuroscience and how it can be applied to graphic design and branding, and I really want to thank Shannon for his time in shedding some light on the topic, and hope to work with him again in the future.

Daniel Borg.


Daniel Borg

Daniel Borg

Creative Director

psyborg® was founded by Daniel Borg, an Honours Graduate in Design from the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Daniel also has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Engineering and has experience from within the Engineering & Advertising Industries.

Daniel has completed over 2000 design projects consisting of branding, illustration, web design, and printed projects since psyborg® was first founded. psyborg® is located in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle but services business Nation wide.

I really do enjoy getting feedback so please let me know your thoughts on this or any of my articles in the comments field or on social media below.

Cheers Daniel