Neuroaesthetics of Web Design and its relationship to Art in the Workplace
Carlos Prieto has conceptualized and designed e-commerce and lead-generation websites for more than 20 years. He was the first person in the Website Department during the dot-com boom at Inditex, the largest fashion retailer worldwide. Carlos worked on design and user experience for websites like zara.com, zarahome.com, and pullandbear.com. He managed the first e-commerce project for Inditex, that was deployed in 15 countries, 6 languages, 4 currencies and 4000 SKUs. He has worked on many other companies and brands like Help For Children, Goal.com and Purificacion Garcia to list a few. Currently, Carlos is a founding member of The Fish, a creative and e-commerce agency in New York "for brands that rock".
Artworks Advisory: What images tended to stay longer in your offices of the fashion retail companies you worked for? Were they paintings, photographs, contemporary or abstract art?
Carlos Prieto: I have worked for some of the most important fashion retail companies in the world and, in general, art is not present in the areas of work; only in the reception areas and, sometimes, in the office areas for executives. I think it's a lost opportunity to inspire designers, to help combat the stress of commercials, to improve the concentration of experts in IT areas or to increase the productivity of logistics areas. For example, It may seem that neutral work areas and rest areas with white walls and no distractions are a great idea, but a better approach would be by using an a painting or a photograph that is inspiring and harmonious. Our eyes may be focused on a computer screen, but our peripheral vision is receiving stimuli at all times, and I am sure that it is more beneficial for our work to perceive something beautiful and inspiring than white walls, clothes racks, dozens of filing cabinets or the back of other colleagues working on their computers. Without perceiving the detail of artwork, not looking directly at it, only its shapes and colors make our brain work in the background; The abstraction of the work can activate positive emotional responses in the brain of the worker. This is where the role of the curator is of great importance since they have to select the works appropriate to each context and purpose, define the ideal locations and analyze the results. Also, the small pauses are necessary, and instinctively we seek to distract our mind. On this context, a piece of art in which we finally put all our attention will contribute to a more positive distraction than to use the first thing we find, which will normally be a mobile phone or white walls.
Artworks Advisory: From your perspective, are there any design cross-overs in your work compared to displaying art in the workplace?
Carlos Prieto: I am an expert in user experience (UX), designing websites for 20 years. I see a very strong cross-over because my job is to create web pages that serve a purpose. "Beautiful" is a minimum adjective for a website that even it is not necessary to mention the client, it is taken for granted. What is important is that it leads to a goal: a sale, a user registration, a call to a phone number, a visit to a physical store, etc., with a pleasant and fluid experience for the user. The objectives and the way to achieve them are very specific for each project, and that is the reason why you have to carefully study the business, the client, the trends, etc., and create a specific design that represents the brand that achieves the objectives. What you do in Art in the Workplace is very similar, because you give value and function to something that for many people is only beautiful. You select those artworks that contribute to the goals of each company and workspaces. For web pages, it took a long time for companies to recognize that design and business objectives were aligned, but finally it happened. I hope this realization and understanding will happen soon for art in the workplace.
Artworks Advisory: Do you see a collaboration between digital/web design and art in the workplace?
Carlos Prieto: I see great possibilities for collaboration between digital and art in the workplace. With the improvement in screen technology, it may be difficult to distinguish between a TV and a canvas. Examples like the Samsung Frame TV designed by Yves Behar. It can help to bring art to any place and facilitate the work of the curator, who could change an artwork piece to a different one in a matter of seconds. In this sense, products such as meural.com are close to what this technology could be. If we could add the role of an expert curator like those at Art in the Workplace that select suitable works for each space, we would be speaking of something very interesting. It would allow the same space to show different artworks depending on the use, so a meeting room could show some artworks for a brainstorming, images of structure for a board of directors and motivational images for sales presentations. These screens would also allow the inclusion of videos. As a motion graphics designer, I think moving images can contribute a lot to transmit different concepts to reach business goals.
Artworks Advisory: When you are designing do you use certain colors or shapes to get specific responses from your viewers? If yes can you please give us a few examples?
Carlos Prieto: Shapes are everywhere in web design. Web design works on grids of information, so for all cases you can represent the layout of a webpage with only rectangular shapes. A user that goes to a webpage for the first time has to be capable of reaching the goals we propose. A layout system that the user understands by default is very important and these rectangular shapes help.
Going deeper, rectangular shapes are great for a block of information but not good for readability. An all-uppercase sentence creates a kind of rectangular shape, with all the letters having the same height, this is difficult to be scanned by the eye. A lowercase sentence is easier to read because the abstract shape of the sentence is a mountain range that makes each letter and word more distinguishable. So, I use uppercase only for some menu options and some button labels with short text.
Round shapes can be present, of course, within those rectangular layouts. They can mask a picture or an icon and they give the idea of a more casual website than one using only straight lines. An interesting example is buttons. Imagine a product page with lots of information. The button is everything. The focus of the page is the client clicking the "Add to Cart" button. So even if other buttons on the webpage are perfect black rectangles, we should try to make this button as clickable as possible. This means: curved corners, vibrant colors like orange, bright borders to give volume, and even a shadow to give more depth to the shape. A button like this is screaming "click me", the business depends on the user clicking. Green is sometimes used for "you're doing good" so it's also used for the action buttons on less aggressive pages. A website is a place with lots of information but with few paths, we want the customer to follow in order to achieve our goal. Shapes and colors should subliminally guide the client to your goals.