September 19, 2023

Neuroaesthetics: A Journey Into the Brain in Search of Beauty

How neuroaesthetics helps UX designers accurately understand which UI will be most appealing to the end user.

Neuroaesthetics is a relatively new field of study that has emerged at the intersection of aesthetics and neurobiology. It seeks to determine why some visual images appear more attractive to humans than others. Today, it is increasingly used in UI/UX design.

When designing UI and UX, designers must not only consider the visual appeal of the software but also think about how users perceive individual elements used on websites and apps developed as part of a digital business transformation.

As one delves into neuroaesthetics, it becomes clear that this field holds tremendous potential. Its importance will only grow, making it essential to start learning and applying it in UI/UX design for any software today. At Focus21, we fully understand this when we are developing software for a mobile app, a website or a custom project (about the most interesting company projects, we discuss them in case studies).

Neuroaesthetics offers a wealth of ideas to guide design decisions. Color, balance, symmetry, shape – with these elements, one can create an experience that goes beyond superficial user interaction with UI/UX.

What is Neuroaesthetics and Why It's Important to Consider It

Neuroaesthetics offers the ability to create a higher quality UI/UX for software.

Neuroaesthetics is a distinct discipline that sits at the intersection of two other fields. On one hand, it employs principles of neurobiology, which studies the brain and its functional processes. On the other, it applies aesthetics, a branch of philosophy concerning beauty and taste.

Neuroaesthetics seeks to understand how the brain perceives and interprets beauty. It attempts to answer why certain forms or colors, or compositions as a whole, appeal to some. Understanding this allows for a more refined and impressive UI/UX design for software.

As one delves into neuroaesthetics, it becomes evident that human aesthetic preferences aren't as subjective as previously thought. Moreover, they aren't as influenced by external factors as many consider when designing UI and UX.

Over time, more evidence emerges suggesting some aesthetic principles are universal and inherently wired in the human brain. Neuroaesthetics sheds light on instinctive visual preferences and provides an empirical foundation for design decisions.

How the Human Brain Perceives Beauty Visually

With neuroaesthetics, one can manipulate the visual perception of software.

When witnessing true beauty, different brain regions begin to interact to process the experience. The orbitofrontal cortex, involved in emotion management, becomes active. It connects with the visual cortex to amplify sensations.

Additionally, the prefrontal cortex evaluates visual images based on personal preferences and past experiences. Ultimately, the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices monitor the emotional response to match what's seen, intensifying impressions.

It turns out, the brain doesn't merely observe pleasant visual images but creates a rich experience and a spectrum of impressions. Pleasing visuals enhance emotions, induce happiness, and uplift mood. This not only pertains to tangible objects but also to the UI of software.

By understanding how the brain reacts to visual imagery, designers can craft products that not only look good but also trigger the desired neurological responses. This makes the user experience more engaging, captivating, pleasant, and memorable.

The Role of Color Perception in UX/UI

Cool colors convey to the brain the need to relax and calm down.

Color has an immediate impact on an audience that goes beyond aesthetics and deeply penetrates cognitive and emotional reactions. Studies in the field of neuroaesthetics show that colors evoke different but predictable emotional responses.

Red and yellow are typically associated with feelings of coziness and comfort but can also indicate a potential need for urgent decision-making. On the other hand, blue and green often signal the brain to relax and calm down, which can be leveraged in UX/UI design.

If a website or app aims for a calming experience, elements in cool shades are usually employed. Conversely, when there's a need to prompt some action (e.g., making a purchase), motivating warm colors are applied.

Warm colors encourage action, like adding a product to the cart.

Beyond emotional reactions, colors also influence cognitive processes, including attention and memory. Specific hues and their combinations can make an object not just more noticeable but also highly memorable. This can guide attention and enhance usability.

Choosing a colour is a critical step in any design process and can significantly affect perception and emotional response. By understanding the unique emotional and cognitive impacts of various shades, one can select a palette that matches the desired experience.

Furthermore, it's crucial to recognize that software design work rarely stops at its first iteration. After creating a minimum viable product (MVP), user feedback is gathered, providing an opportunity to refine the project, including its color scheme.

The Significance of Symmetry, Balance, and Proportions

Basic interface elements are typically made symmetrical, balanced, and proportional.

In the world around us, symmetry in its various forms (from bilateral to radial) is ubiquitous. Likely because of this, the brain tends to prefer symmetrical objects, perceiving them as more comfortable and appealing.

Balance refers to the even distribution of visual weight. In a balanced composition, elements don’t overshadow each other, creating a sense of calm and stability. This aligns with human brain preferences, so such designs are interpreted as correct.

The concept of proportionality explains the necessity of choosing an appropriate size for a specific UI element. When basic buttons or input fields are too large or too small, it immediately creates a dissonance for the user and subconsciously reduces trust in the software.

Disproportion in some elements can draw additional attention to them.

A symmetrical, balanced, and proportional website or app design not only meets the aesthetic demands of the audience but also enhances intuitive navigation through the UI, improves UX, increases engagement, and enhances the overall user experience with the software.

However, experienced designers skillfully break basic neuroaesthetic principles for the benefit of UX. For example, asymmetric elements can create a more dynamic and unconventional design that sparks user interest. Moreover, the most memorable elements for the user tend to be the "incorrect" ones.

Nevertheless, to successfully break the rules, one must fully understand them. Only by doing so can one manipulate user attention and direct it to the specific information or actions needed at a particular moment.

How the Shape of Elements in UX/UI Alters User Perception

Round shapes of elements enhance the level of trust towards the presented information.

Ultimately, an essential aspect of neuroaesthetics is the shape of objects, each being a set of complex stimuli engaging different brain regions. It's vital to understand that this isn't only about tangible objects but also UI elements in software.

Icons, buttons, logos – all these design elements employ various shapes to convey meaning and evoke the required emotions, capture attention, and drive actions. Elements with smoothed corners often carry a more relaxing connotation than those intentionally sharp.

A sharp and angular logo will suitably emphasize the innovation and dynamism of a tech startup. In contrast, sleep and meditation apps often use logos with rounded and soft shapes that underline feelings of comfort, well-being, and safety.

In the end, it's crucial to realize that neuroaesthetics doesn't provide a one-size-fits-all answer to what software's UI/UX should look like. Instead, it offers tools that enable the management of users' emotions and perceptions, which is vital during digital business transformation.

Ready to Elevate Your User Experience with Neuroaesthetics?


Nick Griс


UI/UX Design

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