You’ve heard the cliché before: a picture is worth a thousand words. In today’s rapid-paced, information-overloaded society, visual communication is of the utmost importance, almost unmatched in its value. In the field of design, men dominate. But what women lack in numbers, they make up in perspective for the number one buying audience in the current global economy: women.
Visual communication affects everything in the marketing realm: user experience, marketing strategy, mobile app user interface, and advertising campaigns, to name a few. The human brain processes images at an alarming speed, as we’re visual creatures by nature. How effectively you use visuals will play a large part in whether you catch your audience’s attention or lose them. Having multiple perspectives when producing visual marketing can help you reach your desired goal. Bringing more women into creative fields, as well as marketing and visual communication fields, can help this. As humans, we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Bouncing ideas off others aids in varied perceptions, leading to successful end results. At Blue Rivet, we are constantly working together as a team to help our business flourish and support our company culture.
Multiple Perspectives in Designing Visual Communication
Recent studies have shown that when it comes to female consumers, advertisers are falling short. Considering the most powerful consumers across the board are women- making roughly 85% of all purchasing decisions- this is something creatives need to take into account. In fact, the number of female creative directors in the field is low; roughly 14% of all creative directors are women. With so much advertising and visual communication being produced through the male lens and directed at a largely female target audience, it’s not surprising that 70% of women say they feel “alienated” by visual communication in advertising.
While the gender gap in creative fields is closing (albeit slowly), there is still room for improvement. Men and women are different. From social expectations to color preferences to the way we absorb emotive information, there are a lot of disparities. That said, the way men and women communicate as humans can vary greatly (in a generalized sense of the idea.) Having multiple perspectives in approach to your digital strategy and visual communication efforts is pivotal in reaching a larger audience.
The Power of a Visually Compelling Social Presence
Social media is a great area of opportunity for diversity of perspective. Social media is a vital tool for marketers, providing a great way to spread visual communication organically and boost your social media engagement. When a post on social media includes an image, it’s ten times more likely to receive interaction. Facebook is dominated by women. Roughly 76% of women use Facebook, while only 66% of men use the social media plat form on a regular basis. Subsequently, women are not only more likely to interact with brands on social media platforms, they also engage with social media more often on a daily basis. There’s no question that a female’s perspective in design for social media marketing campaigns is beneficial.
“Design is one of the few disciplines that is a science as well as an art. Effective, meaningful design requires intellectual, rational rigor along with the ability to elicit emotions and beliefs.” – Debbie Millman
A Brief History of Human Visual Communication
Communication is a pillar of humanity. Communicating orally was the original history book- the way that we passed down information about our ancestry, our cultures, our heritage. From cave paintings to carrier pigeons to the printing press, being able to communicate our ideas, fears, and innermost thoughts has helped contribute to our overall success as a species. The history of communication as a whole ties back to visual communication in various ways, namely because early communication was visually-based.
I think it’s fair to say that advertising is thought of as a largely new invention in the vast timeline of human history. However, wall posters and political campaign displays are known to have existed as far back as ancient Egypt and ancient China. In fact even the history of the alphabet stems from ancient Egyptians, who used hieroglyphs. In Europe, the Middle Ages brought a demand for advertising of services. Early advertisements were largely image-based, due a largely illiterate population.
With the advancements of the printing press in the mid-1800s, books and newspapers became increasingly affordable, giving rise to a demand for advertising and visual communication. Once industrialization began to spread in the late 1800s, the notion of advertising became commonplace. This new market focused on conveying a message quickly, efficiently, and uniquely to capture the attention of the desired audience.
Women in Early Advertising
Female advertisers have been positively impacting product recognition since the beginning. In 1910, for example, Helen Lansdowne coined a new ad campaign slogan for Woodbury Facial Soap: “A Skin You Love to Touch.” This innovative ad campaign is thought to be the first use of sex appeal in advertising. What made it so risqué? The ads featured illustrations of men and women in close, intimate quarters. Only a woman could think of something so innovative during such a modest period in American history.
Woodbury’s sales increased by 1000 percent after only eight years, making the advertising campaign an undoubted success. The slogan was used until the 1940s due to this success. It was also ranked 31st of the top 100 campaigns of the 20th century on Advertising Age. Helen Landsdowne was also active in the suffrage movement. She was instrumental in the advancement of women in the field. She commonly employed fellow women to work under her, truly paving the way for women in the field.
The Emotional Link in Visual Communication
“The designer must work with one goal in mind—to integrate the elements in such a manner that they will combine to produce a result that will convey not merely a static commercial message, but an emotional reaction as well.” – Lester Beall
In my years working as a web designer and UX designer, I’ve learned a lot about the role emotions play in communicating visually. I have always thought of myself as a strong communicator, whether it be in writing, in art, or in design. Viewing the world in metaphors and allegories plays a part. Constantly working to improve my understanding and practice of compassion, I know from experience that empathy and communication go hand in hand in the design world. We work to express a clear and concise message, whether it be in the form of a website, a banner ad, a billboard. Having a clear vision and emotional understanding of our audience helps make our messages more accessible and meaningful. Understanding their perspective can do wonders for your product’s end result.
Color is easily the simplest way to convey emotion visually, although it can easily be overlooked. With our sense of vision being our prominent innate sense as humans, our brains are hardwired to react to color. This ingrained ability goes back to our ancestors as well. Being able to quickly process shades of berries to know if they were poisonous or safe to eat contributed to our survival as a species. It’s a bit more complicated when it comes to emotional responses to color. For instance, blue is a color which invokes emotions of ease, comfort, and stability. In short, color is an important form of visual communication. We must consider it’s role when producing any type of creative marketing work.
The Influence of Color
In our example shown here- a poster for the documentary “Beyond the Myth: The Truth abut Pit Bulls”- there are many of these factors at play. The photographic image of the pit bull dog is striking, as the dog is chained up and appears with sad eyes. If the poster used an angry, rabid looking pit bull, it would not invoke the same emotion in us: we would be fearful, whereas this image makes us see the dog as misunderstood and tame. The eyes make us view the dog as almost childlike. This makes an emotional connection in our minds.
The light blue color is an excellent choice for the background and text, as the color blue appeals to feelings of safety, calmness and loyalty. The dark pink reddish color used sparingly throughout the design helps bring our attention to the overall message. Pink is a color that varies, its meaning depending greatly on the context of how it’s presented. In this sense, against the light blue, it seems to invoke vulnerability and innocence; calmness and a gentle idea of love. These factors help the design execute its message effectively. The message: pit bulls as a breed have been discriminated against, warping our public view of the breed as a whole, and this discriminatory attitude is worth reconsidering.
The Future of Visual Communication is Bright
The world of visual communication and design is ever-changing and expanding, and the future is bright. Maybe you’re a woman (or a man) looking to get into the field of design and advertising? Find a mentor to lean on and learn from to continue expanding your skills. Learning a new skill, whatever it may be, can help you succeed as well.
One piece of advice I give when I speak to design students is pretty simple. Use every resource at your disposal. Teaching yourself something new is not nearly as difficult as it used to be. There are limitless tools online at your disposal. Also, keep in mind that a design or visual communication solution is not always a one way street. Often there are different roads you can take to solve the same problem. Don’t close yourself in too much. Be open to input from your peers – male and female.
Keep your eyes open. Visual communication and design is literally everywhere. You encounter design daily, from the billboards you pass on your daily commute to work to the labels on your morning cup of coffee. Its influence is limitless. Take note of what you see – what you like, what you don’t; what works and what doesn’t – and never stop growing and learning. As a coffee mug I saw once proclaimed: “Good design might not save the world, but it damn sure makes it a better place.”
Communication Through the Ages
Five facts that show the advertising industry fails women
The Power of Pictures
History of Advertising
Mad Women: A History of Women in Advertising