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How Vas Works

3-5 seconds.. That's about all the time you get for your design to be noticed or lost in the shuffle. What if you could predict what people are likely to see in those critical seconds? And use that knowledge to make your designs stand out?
3M™ Visual Attention Software (VAS) analyses your designs, using algorithms developed by 3M scientists, that simulate what people see during the first 3-5 seconds of viewing (called pre-attentive processing). VAS can analyze almost any visual—print ads, web banners, store shelf planograms, billboards and more.
VAS helps you improve the attention getting potential of your designs, increases client confidence, simplifies approvals, and helps you gain consensus on visual priorities.

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VAS is easy to use in your existing creative process. Use it via web, mobile or Photoshop® to analyze your design and get a suite of easy-to-understand reports.


Areas of interest

After you upload an image into VAS, you can mark up areas of interest (AOIs) that correspond to you visual priorities for the piece. Scores in boxes indicate the percent likelihood of each area gaining attention in the first 3-5 seconds.

Areas of Interest


What order will your areas of interest be seen in? If you've ever had that debate with a client or colleague, Sequence helps you settle it. Sequential numbers show the likely order in which visual elements will gain attention in the first 3-5 seconds.



Regions gives an analysis of the image without considering the areas that you marked as visual priorities. This gives you a more raw and basic analysis of the image, for compariscon. Icons in the boxes indicate the elements that drive attention.


Visual Elements

Visual Elements gives you results for the 5 elements that drive visual attention: Edges, Intensity, Red/Green Contrast, Blue/Yellow Contrast and Faces. The table gives element scores for each Area of Interest. Use the scores to learn which elements are driving attention, and how to revise.

Visual Elements


Heatmap gives you a quick read on the most attention- getting areas within your image, kind of like a weather map. Hot colors indicate attention grabbing power in the first 3-5 seconds. Red = high; orange/yellow = medium; blue = low; and areas with no color overlay = very low.


Reports and Images

All of the analyses are available instantly in the VAS interface, but VAS also collects them into a tidy report. Just tap the download button for a detailed PDF, and a folder of the analysis images, along with your original. It's at your fingertips to use, review and share with clients.

Reports and Images
Science Behind VAS

VAS is the culmination of decades of vision science research. 3M first began working in vision science to improve reflective materials in work zones. The same research was applied to understanding what a consumer will notice in signage, retail displays and advertising, and VAS was born.
VAS uses a predictive algorithm, based on actual eye-tracking studies, to test for pre-attentive vision. This is the first 3-5 seconds of viewing— before we're aware of what we're looking at—and not affected by gender, age or culture. Post-attentive vision happens next, when your brain interprets what it's seeing. VAS helps ensure that your design is noticed in post-attentive vision as well. If it isn't noticed in the first place, how can it be processed?
The 5 elements, below, are what VAS scans for. They're the key factors that attract our attention in pre-attentive viewing. Once our attention is gained by them, our brain can interpret the scene—i.e., read the headline, recognize the logo, etc.

Science Behind Elements
Visual Spell Check

VAS is kind of like a visual spell check for designers. Spell check doesn't know the author's point, or examine the writer's style. It just identifies words that need a bit of attention. Similarly, VAS identifies the 5 raw elements that people are naturally drawn to when they first gaze at something, but before they're aware of what they're looking at. It can't give subjective opinions. Or kill your creativity.


Video tutorials

Unlock the power of VAS with our videos tutorials.

Vision science deep-dive

Learn more about vision science in our series of videos.

VAS validation study

We've tested VAS extensively, and proven its accuracy. Learn more by reading our validation study report.

VAS Tutorials VAS Tutorials VAS Tutorials VIEW/DOWNLOAD (PDF)