The first question we can ask ourselves is: what is the point of arousing emotions in users and customers? The second is what is the impact of photos and images on consumer’s emotions?
It has been shown that emotions can positively or negatively impact the relationship that customers have with a brand . For instance: “surprise and joy effectively concentrate attention and retain viewers” say Thales Teixeira, Michel Wedel and Rik Pieters in their Journal of Marketing Research publication.
So, do images and photos have an impact on emotions?
Does the choice of an image or a photo impact a user’s emotions?
To answer this question, we have conducted extensive research.
The first thing to note is the capacity of the brain to process information and images. For example, MIT neuroscientists prove that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds . Another one even suggests that web designers have only about 50 ms to make a good first impression, so fast is the analysis.
In other words, the human brain processes images and photos very well. That’s why photos and pictures have an important impact between design and people’s emotions.
Photos and images bring emotions
Many websites and applications use photographs, and in particular photos of nature. Is this a clever idea?
The following study is genuinely interesting. It presented different pictures to participants, who were asked to note the nature of the emotion (negative/neutral/positive). In the following figure, you can observe the result of adding a barrier to a forest photo, which decreases by 31 points the overall positive feeling of the photo without it. Indeed, a large part of testers associate the barrier with a ban.
Source: Thales Teixeira, Michel Wedel and Rik Pieters – Journal of Marketing Research
The aesthetics of a photograph also come into play, since the upside-down photo reaches 53% positive while the original is 86% positive.
Beyond personal perception, some studies indicate that looking at photos of nature could be enough to lower our work stress level . If there is no doubt about spending time in nature, just looking at a photo may not seem that obvious.
Finally, there is no lack of studies and examples to demonstrate the links between photos and emotions. The reasons are numerous: colors, textures, etc. So photos and images gave an impact on consumer’s emotions.
A link between the need to escape and the current period
Recently we have all experienced some rather confusing events. “Confined” in our homes during lockdown, we have all seen the same walls, windows, images, and colors repeatedly for several months…
Need of nature
Many of us feel the desire and the need to see changes. According to a study conducted by the IPEA (Institute of prospective and studies of furniture), 81% of the French people want to change their interior design! “This long time spent indoors increases the desire for change” (Christophe Gazel, IPEA’s general delegate) . Indeed, during these months spent between four walls, we were deprived of certain landscapes and colors, and mainly those related to nature!
According to an exclusive survey conducted by the YouGov Institute for HuffPost LIFE, 67% of French people have missed nature and feel the need to reconnect with it!  This reconnection is reflected by some new visual trends.
Credit: Adam Kool – Unsplash.com
Colors of Nature
As seen before, several studies have shown nature has beneficial effects on humans. This makes even more sense when we know the colors of nature bring us positive emotions.
The blue, for instance, is often associated with the sky and water which evokes feelings of freedom, escape, and serenity. Marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols, talks about the “Blue mind”, a concept that demonstrates that water and its blue color put us in a state close to meditation.
Credit: Sébastien Jermerl – Unsplash.com
Several websites of decoration, like Maison&Travaux , Homelisty , or Habitatpresto  agree to say that the palettes of colors 2021 are turned towards nature. The natural, organic, and vegetal colors triumph. The French turn to different shades of green, sage green, khaki green, different shades of midnight blue, duck blue, or brown, terracotta, yellow saffron, etc.
Credit: Spacejoy – Unsplash.com
Less is more
Various fields agree to say that lockdowns have shaken up our habits. “Minimalism” also known as “Less is more” is becoming the new standard. For instance, some beauty magazines like Advantages explain that the new daily beauty habits aim to be more natural and abandon all the old long steps.
In interior design, Minimalism also becomes the norm. According to SeLoger.com, decoration trends this year are focusing more on nature and minimalism. We want a change of scenery and declutter our interior. Now more than ever, we need to focus on things that really matter. Regardless of the fields, simplicity is becoming the key to satisfy most people.
Consequently, nature has definitely made its comeback in the hearts of the French. The emotions that we experience observing its colors are uncoupled. With these observations, it’s not surprising to notice that some UX designers are surfing on this current trend and this need to escape and reconnect with nature.
Analysis of images from travel and other websites
Web designers, UX, and UI designers seized this opportunity to design nature inspired interfaces to immerse travel visitors.
Why immersing visitors? Well, it is a fantastic way to attract attention, they will be more likely to stick around. As mentioned previously, 67% of French people missed nature during lockdowns . It is appropriate to create interfaces that are reminiscent of nature. Green is the color that our brain associates with nature and therefore, it symbolizes calmness and relaxation . One way to do so is to implement a website’s pages with full-width images or illustrations of natural landscapes. As we know, photos and pictures have an important impact between design and people’s emotions.
This “nature” trend is particularly true in the travel industry. As we know, photos and images have an impact on consumer’s emotions. Recent restrictions hit hard on this sector, and they need to engage visitors into travelling despite the pandemic. Therefore, platforms such as Airbnb swapped their homepage style towards something reminiscent of nature.
Airbnb’s homepage clearly is inspired by nature. It stresses the need to escape everyday life. They used to use illustrations in the past, but not based on nature. It is now trendy to immerse visitors into another realm. In this case, the illustration catches the eye and triggers emotions. Visitors naturally engage with the content of the website.
Another example with Abritel, it is a competitor of Airbnb. They use a similar homepage style, except that they opted for a picture instead of an illustration. Once again, this picture reminds us of escaping with elements like the sea, coconut trees and so on.
Nature and evasion are not just trendy within the tourism industry, some companies not related with tourism adopted this homepage style. Businesses like BUD AGENCY, LIMELY or MAD RIVER surf on this trend. This allows them to differentiate themselves from a competitive market. To answer this blog question, photos and images have an impact on consumer’s emotions.
For instance, BUD AGENCY built its website with nature as the main theme. As seen previously with Airbnb, it is an effective way to engage visitors. They provide visitors with an interactive user experience as their illustrations are animated.
Credit: Bud. Agency
UX and UI designers working for travel websites as well as marketing agencies have decided to use the theme of nature to catch people’s attention and mostly to touch them
and remembering good memories. Whereas some decided to use beautiful photography, others chose to use drawing, maybe to increase the imagination and satisfy people’s need for evasion!
Despite these differences, UX and UI designers keep people’s need for simplicity in mind. Their utilization of the images is simple, they create clear backgrounds and easy user navigation. We can see some new UX trends based on minimalism like a duotone interface on Adidas football , or only black and white interface in TH= SUM (Web Agency).
There are many ways of using images and visuals in a user interface. Now, after everything we have been through, more and more images and visuals are turned toward nature to satisfy our desire for reconnection. A lot of UX and UI designers used this need to create interfaces that touch us and… our sympathy.
New colors are trending and nature photography or drawing are used on several websites!
In several ways and fields, UX and UI designers really take advantage of our need for evasion! Now, unleash your creativity!