designing for irrational behaviour

Designing for irrational behaviour

In a previous blog, I discussed how design uses certain cues to create a lasting impression with the customer that matches what a brand wants to say about themselves. The example I used was of a bank wanting to communicate that it is trustworthy and reliable.

But what happens when a brand wants to engage with something outside of that expected behaviour? Let’s explore the subject of designing for irrational behaviour.

While we’d all like to think of ourselves as being rational about our finances – planning ahead for a rainy day, etc – that’s not always the case. Spending money isn’t necessarily a rational decision, and can be influenced by all sorts of things, even in frugal times like the present.

When it comes to such decisions, the impression of a bank brand being steadfast and reliable isn’t always appropriate. Seeing your depleted bank balance in that clean, sober, professional space might just make you feel a little bit guilty. This then fuels another irrational human behaviour – not monitoring your finances as closely when money is tight.

bank design

Banks such as Monzo and Starling have entered the fray recently conveying an alternative attitude to banking which aims to tap into that irrational behaviour and accept it as par for the course. Functions such as piggy banks, rounding-up change into savings and detailed tracking are handy ways to help people monitor their expenditure while accepting that spending will happen.

From a design perspective, these new banks acknowledge their younger, more tech-savvy customer base with pastel gradients and modern sans serif fonts, paired with a conversational tone of voice that avoids jargon at all costs. It’s an approach that seems more laid-back than the traditional banks, and perfect for positioning these newer brands as a place for ‘fun spending’ along with the usual bills and rent.

Even as traditional banks start to take on the functionality that app-based banks have brought to the table, Monzo is still able to make itself look distinctive.


And it’s a trend that’s not just confined to the banking sector. As a brand, Oasis has never been shy about tongue-in-cheek copy, and this summer the drinks company ran an eye-catching campaign, saying that “while Oasis can’t change our characters… it can refresh them.”

In a sea of aspirational and self-improvement messaging, Oasis openly acknowledges that buying the drink will have little impact on your life beyond being able to drink something nice.

Someone buying their lunch in a supermarket during their break is short on time – and not necessarily looking to make big decisions on what’s best for them. The campaign cuts through decision-making by placing itself as morally neutral. It’s just a drink, so why not?

The ‘Be Your Own Oasis’ concept also flips the behavioural nudge of social proof on its head, challenging the consumer in a playful way to make their own choice and not follow the herd.

The adverts’ bright colours and large copy reinforce the brand’s shame-free, confident vibes – Oasis is happy to shout about how un-aspirational it is, implying that you should feel just as confident about buying the product. It also has a fresh, youth-targeted feel that’s reinforced by a partnership with Ekin-Su of Love Island fame.

So, what does this all mean? By subverting the visual and marketing language employed by the brands in your industry, it’s possible to tap into an aspect of consumer behaviour that might not be accommodated by the mainstream and give it a space to exist without judgement. This also lets you set your brand apart in such a way, that you can keep ahead of the game even when more traditional brands try to catch up.

Author: Laura Siragher is a Senior Designer at CreativeRace. Her design experience spans 12 years, from freelance to in-house to agency, covering both design and illustration.