Making an emotional connection with your customers using shape and form.
It is easy to overlook the importance of good interior design in business but the reality is that your interior spaces have a major influence on the customer experience and, in turn, on their buying behaviour, which ultimately affects your bottom line.
The many elements of design need to exist in harmony in order for your customer to have an enjoyable experience. The elements of design include line, space, form, shape, texture, colour, lighting and timing.
Knock any of these elements out of balance and the customer ends up feeling uneasy ‘for some reason’. Something will be ‘off’ for them and the seamless, pleasurable experience that you had hoped to offer, just may not happen.
We have spoken about the importance of some of the other elements of design in creating a great customer experience, but shape, form and lines play a very important role in the seamless ‘journey’ of your customer through your business.
Did you know, for example, that vertical lines in a space create a sense of formality, height and grandeur whereas curvy shapes and forms create a feeling of informality and playfulness. Horizontal lines can create a relaxed environment and angled lines can create energy in a space.
The human perception is a wonderful thing and throughout history, we have shaped the meaning we attach to visual references by taking our cues from the culture we grow up in, from our experiences and memories, from the built environment, from history and from many many other references that all combine to create our perception.
It is for this reason that we attach such meaning as ‘formality’ to vertical lines. Think about the many government buildings and banks you have come across, for example, adorned with columns or exposed support structure. These buildings are demonstrating their dominance, their presence and are sending the message that they are to be taken seriously!
On the other hand, think about a beach shack – what kinds of lines and form would you expect to see there? Often we see horizontal lines, mirroring the horizon of the beach and the ocean. If you think about it, that’s also the position we sleep in – horizontally- and so there is an association between horizontal lines and relaxation.
The lines, shapes and form you choose to use in your business premises can set up your first impression. They can set the whole ‘tone’ of your business and they let your customers know what they can expect from you as a business.
In addition, the timing of the placement of your shapes, forms and lines can (it is said) influence the customers decision making process. What do I mean by this? Well, if different shapes, lines and forms can create different energies, then the placement of these shapes, lines and forms at different intervals throughout the customers journey through your business becomes an important factor in influencing their experience in your business premises.
For example, if you wish the customer to feel relaxed and at ease at the entrance to your business, you might focus on horizontal lines to guide them into the main area of your premises. If, then, you would like to create a space with playful energy, you might focus on freeform, curvy shapes or angled lines.
One of the masters at this use of shape, lines and forms for creating different energies is Google.
Have you ever visited the Google offices in Dublin? They are a great example of how a corporation has considered interior design (especially shape, lines and form) in creating varying energies. Google have created distinct areas where it’s employees can relax, can create, can focus, can think etc and employees can work from any of these spaces. They are not confined to one area.
Here are some other examples of how shapes, lines and form as said to influence our experiences:
Circular shapes/lines/forms are said to evoke feelings of:
Tenderness, Love, Friendship, Care, Support, Protection, Affection & Compassion.
Circles in the form of rings are given (in many cultures) as a symbol of love, friendship and commitment.
Curves are also generally said to be feminine, soft and free flowing and so have prominence in female aligned businesses, creative businesses and businesses whose identity can be linked to the softer emotions.
Squares, rectangles, triangles & pyramids:
These shapes are said to suggest stability, strength, power, balance and reliability. Triangles have long been associated with law, religion, science and power.
These shapes are solid, robust, symmetrical and therefore conjure up feelings of stability and equilibrium. They are often viewed as masculine and have a prominence in the brands and designs of businesses who sell more masculine products.
Vertical shapes and lines are said to represent:
Strength, Masculinity, Power, Formality, Aggression, Courage, Brutality, Domination & Menacing.
Again, think of the more formal buildings you have come across like banks, colleges, ancient Greek and Roman style buildings – think of their use of vertical columns and support structures – all of which are a show of power and wealth, formality and masculinity.
Horizontal lines tend to represent
Tranquillity, Femininity, Calm, Rest, Peace, Composure, Silence, Stillness, Non menacing
Horizontal wood cladding, for example, is often applied to buildings both internally and externally as a way to soften the building.
Soft curves can represent:
Rhythm, Movement, Happiness, Pleasure, Generosity and Femininity.
Sharp angled lines can make a space feel:
Energetic, Lively, Young, Explosive, Angry, Dynamic and can also give the space Movement
My advice when thinking about the design of your business premises is to think about your target market. Who are they? Are they male, female, young, old, energetic, in need of relaxation, looking for formality and structure or looking for creativity and freedom? These types of questions will help you to work out the look and feel of your business premises. After that, think about the journey of your customer through your business. What do you want them to feel at each point? Do you want to energise them at the sales point or relax them where they are dining and so on.
My major piece of advice, of course, is hire an interior designer, whose job it is to know all of this as if it were second nature!!