Designing Impressions: Conscious Projection Tools

Creating positive impressions from the digital product through design

Rick Mess       |       May, 2023

Designing impressions is a fascinating and rewarding science. User experiences should not be left to chance.

It’s easy for designers to evoke momentary admiration. But if you want a random visitor to fall in love with your product, to remember it and become a loyal customer, you need to act deliberately, play by the rules, and use special tools.

Here are the rules of conscious projection successfully used by our team.

Rule #1: Sell impressions

Do not sell the product. Do not sell yourself as a designer. Sell impressions.

These aren’t just words. It’s a revolution in your mind and in the way you work. By committing yourself to selling impressions, you put that goal first and make conscious designs.

Designing impressions is the core of UX/UI. It’s the semantic and goal-oriented frame upon which we build the design, like meat on a bone. This kind of design always looks professional, aesthetic, convenient, and attractive.

Every project is a special experience for the audience and a special work for the designer.

There is no skeleton key to unlock all doors. Each time we go looking for a special key to the hearts of the specific group that the project is aimed at.

Rule #2. Immerse yourself in data

The more data you collect — on your client’s business, on your competitors, on the product, on the target audience and its preferences — the faster you will find a solution. You’ll arrive at the idea to impress and capture your audience. Thus you create the soul of the project before the body.

research the subject thoroughly

When you have all the relevant information, you don’t need to ask your client naive questions and waste their time. Your questions will be focused and to the point. You will become an ally and collaborator, not just a hired hand. The client will be touched by your interest and will be happy to tell you more about their project. It will motivate you to move mountains.

● simplify the complex

To make a product easy-to-use and user-friendly, you need to know and understand it yourself. This may sound obvious, but many designers don’t consider it necessary to dive deep. They “get the general idea” and waste no time in getting “creative.”

But you can’t create a clear page structure without first organizing the information in your own mind. Many layout problems stem from a lack of data, when the designer has no understanding of which points should be highlighted, or how these points fit into a hierarchy, sequence, or network. The result is visual chaos or pointless embellishments.

● be passionate and impassion others

There are no dull projects. We only find things boring when we don’t understand them. When we only have a vague idea of what it’s all about, our creativity remains dormant. But once we get to know it better, the creative sparks start flying. It’s impossible to make others passionate about something until you feel some of that passion yourself.

Explore the matter until it becomes so captivating you want to tell your friends about it.

Now you’re almost ready to design.

Rule #3. Establish your goals and benefits

It’s not enough to simply collect and organize data. It needs to be analyzed and directed toward the key objectives of the project. Namely:

● the company’s business goals;

● user goals;

● purpose of the digital product.

We project achievements and benefits in each of the areas. The three goals must not conflict with each other. Read more on balancing the goals: Business Goals vs. User Goals: Striking a Balance.

User goals are not always clearly defined in the client’s brief. Often, they are described superficially or don’t appear motivating enough. But that’s only half the problem. To really captivate the user, you need to know their life values. Life values affect how a person perceives information. This must be taken into account in content creation and visual design.

So dig deep and find out everything about your users: their beliefs, desires, ambitions, fears, hopes and dreams. Try to understand their worldview. Include it in the user portrait. This helps you create compelling messages and motivate people to move toward their goals with the help of your product.

Be sure to test any goal and motive ideas on real people.

lifehack on goals

User goals, values, motives, and benefits should be described as simply as possible. Imagine you’re explaining it to a child and write it down in simple words. It doesn’t matter how funny or ridiculous it looks. You’re doing it for yourself. The more complex the project, the more important it is to simplify it in your own mind, to discard the superficialities and focus on the essence. This will give you a core idea on which to build your design.

Rule #4. Organize management

Designers know all about managing user attention. However, attention is only one of the tools of general management. Any interaction with a product requires a person to commit resources: their time and energy, cognitive and visual load, short-term and long-term memory, emotions and mood — not to mention money. We manage all of it and are thus responsible.

It’s easy to grab the viewer’s attention. It’s more difficult to maintain it, to make the user take a trip, to encourage them to take specific steps, to create positive impressions that will not only justify the time, effort, and money spent, but will make the user want to repeat the experience.

To achieve this, you need to come up with a management concept. In simple terms, the concept is:

Make the user enjoy interacting with the product so that they feel inspired and not exhausted.

Based on project goals and user goals, we select the most useful and inspiring tools.

UX/UI: The Art of Management. Five tools to make your design effective and memorable

5. Use the tools of impression design

first impressions

We all know the power of first impressions. To impress the user, you’ll need to work hard. Forget about wow effects, trendy designs, revolutionary new products, and other flashy stuff. That’s all secondary.

A good first impression comes from order and aesthetics.

First of all, we need a well-balanced structure, a competent and aesthetically coherent UI, and an intuitive UX. Positive impressions have always been and will always be a product of professional design. A design that is relevant, fresh, and not outdated.

The viewer might say “wow!” only to immediately forget what they saw. That’s clearly not the impression we want. Visual effects are justified when they help achieve the goal. A pointlessly beautiful creation is better suited for Dribbble or Behance.

People don’t come to the site to enjoy the design. If they can find what they need right away, that’s the right impression. Nothing should distract them from the purpose of their visit. Unnecessary effects steal time and attention. Immediately understanding what you’re seeing is the best first impression. When the user immediately sees all the relevant info, uncluttered with design embellishments beyond recognition, they stay on the page.

First impressions are also significantly affected by the color palette. It instantly sets the mood. The palette should match both the type of business and the expectations and tastes of the audience.

grabbing attention

In our competitive world, you sometimes need to stand out with a bright and catchy design. You may need to excite and surprise the public — or even stun it. Traditional design may not be up to the task, so you need something special. But as you’re looking for a unique idea, keep in mind that unconventional solutions don’t mean incomprehensible UI and inconvenient UX. Instead, try playing with the color palette, creating a distinct font, using spectacular images and animations, and demonstrating a special style.

Subverting the familiar. This is an efficient way of making your design unique and memorable. Try to see ordinary things with an artist’s eye. What do they resemble? What thoughts and associations do they evoke? Show them in a different light, from an unusual angle, in a modified shape, or against an atypical background; animate the inanimate, colorize the familiar; use humor if appropriate.

Nobody finds a passing fly interesting. But we stare agape at the same fly in macro photos. There’s nothing new about cats. But a giant cat knocking down the Eiffel Tower with its tail is an instant attention grabber. A dancing fork and spoon will catch our eye faster than the most exquisite restaurant meal.

Any creative design must work toward the goals of the project, not just impress.


A person’s attention is fueled by their goals and motives. Without paying attention, the user won’t get the full range of impressions from the product. Attention converts into money, which is why it must not be neglected.

Attention is retained and increased when expectations are met and the proposition’s benefits are obvious.

Even a small landing page requires concentration, a steadily growing interest, and a desire to press the CTA button. The tools used for long-term user retention are effective here, even though they don’t involve a repeating experience cycle. They are Trigger, Motivation, Action, Reward, and Investment.

Visual design also needs triggers (accents), a motivation to keep looking, an enjoyable visual impression, and being satisfied with the information presented. High-quality visual design inspires confidence and encourages us to make decisions and investments. (This is not necessarily about purchasing. For instance, registering on the website and entering your data is also an investment).

To retain and increase attention means taking the user by the hand and leading them through the website or app. It means showing and explaining everything, encouraging and inspiring. The biggest trick is making the user actually look forward to seeing or getting something.

The overall impression is the sum of small and varied parts. They must never be repetitive and predictable.

Strive to diversify impressions while maintaining the overall stylistic and semantic uniformity of the project. Identify the points in your content and visuals where the user is most likely to get tired or bored. Now spruce them up with attention-grabbing elements: an interesting visual accent, a useful tip, a small animation, an exciting effect, a modified typeface, color, shape, etc. All this needs to be tested to make sure the idea works.

Here are design tools for attracting and retaining attention:

● a visual hierarchy tied to the content structure;

● a system of focuses and highlights (color, contrast, size, shape, scale, rhythm, visual weight, negative space, etc.);

● dynamics;

● positioning of elements;

● a system of visual guides (lines, arrows, pointers, perspective);

● a character’s directed gaze (to make the viewer follow it);

● structured typography.

Read more about the user’s regular attention and coming back to the product: Designing for User Retention That Works

emotional connection

To impress and be remembered, we need to reach out emotionally. We must find something that will resonate with them: some special triggers, something exciting and relevant to their experiences. We can only identify these triggers by analyzing our users and running tests (usually more than two).

Emotions of memory. Many emotions are universal and represent memories and feelings associated with them (warm sunshine, fresh sea breeze, smiles and hugs, a cozy home, delicious food, pets, and other similar experiences). However, these emotions don’t resonate as much as those associated with personal experiences: fears, pains, hopes, desires, and dreams.

Aesthetic emotions are a popular design tool that doesn’t require a deep understanding of psychology. An aesthetic-looking design is enjoyable, motivating the user to interact with the product. Aesthetic design inspires confidence in the company and liking for the product.

Increase Conversion with Help of Images

Emotions of persuasion affect intuitive on-the-spot decisions. Logic convinces the mind, but it is emotions that drive decision-making. We can use emotional stories and testimonials, compelling stories of personal experiences, dramatic corroborative videos, photos, and illustrations. The more vivid and sincere stories are, the more they resonate and the better they’re remembered.

The Dos and Don’ts of Storytelling in UX Design

Emotions of possession. Let your users feel how good it is to possess an object of desire. Help them visualize themselves as the happy owners of your product. Show them the changes it will bring to their lives. This is a very powerful tool.

Emotional Design

Emotionally colored impressions directly affect product popularity and conversion rates. The product will be talked about, discussed, recommended, and defended with lawyerly passion. It will go viral on social media (especially if the emotions are experience-based). An emotionally engaging product becomes self-promoting and quickly pays off.

benefit and meaning

People want their every act to be meaningful and beneficial. Material gains are always secondary. Buying designer clothes means attaining a higher status; buying something at a discount means feeling good about your own thriftiness.

Always imbue the impressions you’re projecting with inspiring meanings.


Being able to customize content creates the same type of emotional connection as the feeling of possession. Except instead of the product, the user feels like they own the page: they have the power to change and personalize it, to see and receive only what they need. To the user, this shows you care about their comfort; this makes them trust the product. Customization is always a great opportunity to improve the experience. Use it if it’s appropriate for the project.


You can leave an unforgettable impression by actively engaging the user. Don’t let them feel lonely and confused. Make them a participant, not a guest, client, customer, or patient. Companies that sell impressions treat their users as participants. Participation means being important and needed.

There are many tools for engaging users: social media outreach, feedback (answering questions online, tips and help, polls), inviting other participants to create a sense of community, interactive events, presentations, lessons, chats, and much more.

Use whatever unites people and leads them to a common goal. It’s a special experience that leaves an unforgettable impression.

6. Create anticipation

Successive engagements combine to create a macro-experience, comprising the stages of expectation, participation, and comprehension.

Create a system of different micro-impressions that together form a macro-impression. Distribute all the elements of design, animation, and gamification evenly throughout the website structure, placing them in strategic spots. Engage the user but don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary elements. Don’t waste all your tricks all at once, or the user will get bored later. Each page should end with a “cliffhanger,” so that they keep looking forward to the next one.

7. Analyze feedback

Creating impressions means sounding your design off of real-life users and considering multiple ideas and perspectives every day. Projecting impressions is a constant process of striving toward a perfect compromise rather than a perfect solution.

Do not rely on your intuition to gauge users’ impressions. Always run real-life tests.

Working with feedback includes:

● studying user behavior on the website;

● usability tests and interviews;

● testing and optimizing prototypes;

● fixing mistakes after receiving negative feedback;

● learning new technologies and testing methods.

In conclusion

It’s not easy to start applying all the rules for conscious impression design if you’ve never considered it before. But make a point of doing it, and you’ll soon notice your approach to design changing.

Discover a rich world of impressions for yourself and your users. It will help you come up with brilliant solutions and create truly powerful designs. You will grow faster as a professional, think deeper, and solve project problems more effectively.