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Graphic Designers Use Jedi Mind Tricks

Look, I don’t want to freak you out, but graphic designers are hiding something from you.

They secretly tell people where to go and what to do.

Don’t expect them to admit it, of course. They’ll use innocuous words like “signage” or “wayfinding.” But it’s more like mind control. They’re guiding you, and you aren’t even aware of it.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Just visit the newly remodeled Central Library downtown. If you pay close attention, you’ll practically hear the signs and graphics telling you what to do.

“These aren’t the books you’re looking for.”
“You will take the elevator to the third floor.”
“You want to go to the café and rethink your life.”

How do designers pull this off? With design choices so subtle and attractive that you’d never suspect a thing. They’ll use a clean font choice, a consistent color scheme, sophisticated graphics, or – the sneakiest of all – a directory disguised as art, in a place where you’d need it the most but expect it the least.

Like an elevator door.

Central Library elevator door

Graphic designers use all these techniques – and more – to seamlessly guide people through complex spaces. Their work combines beauty and function to welcome us, delight us, and make us feel comfortable. They even help us create mental maps to navigate the space, so we know where we are, where we’re going, and the best way to get from one place to the other.

We follow their guidance without ever giving it a second thought.

The Society for Environmental Graphic Design calls it “spatial problem solving.” Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled. It’s more like the power of the Force.

And graphic designers? They’re Jedi Masters.



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