Saturday mismusings on Photography,

Thoughts on photography used in design

What is a photograph? There is not a definitive answer, you have to make up your own definition, and hopefully it is always maturing. Here are some  examples where a visual element is used in  advertisement design and this post will consider the options using a photograph or an illustration. If you think about whether a photograph or an illustraton  does the job better you will understand photographs a little more how photographs work to communicate with people.


Disclaimer: This example is not my work, I am  using it  as an  example for discussing the subject matter.

1.  The viewer understands by feeling that this a photograph, that it is not a recording of reality, the animals are not real animals, but they are real plastic rubber things,, their relative size  and color is not real, a shelf would not be angled like that, and still,  as a photograph its sense of “real” communicates  the feeling of unlevel, it creates an unreal image and you understand this is  really  a wall and a shelf, and its not real.The 90° vertical lines of the wall paper,  the angle of the shelf work and the  animals creates a visual tension which strongly attracts visual interest and the bottom elements unify the design.

The viewer experiences this at once. The photograph works to facilitate this visual knowing where as an illustration might be too fake—its not real, its fun, I get it, I enjoyed it ,it does not have to be real and still its a real shelf with real toy animals on an angle and I by feeling I get it, its fun and I am drawn into reading the ad.  

The photograph works to set the feeling, the design works to unify the content or the message the ad. Some, such as David Olgiphy (RIP) might think the compelling visual  attraction of the logo gets in the way of the product message of the ad

Ask yourself would a drawing have been as effective?



2. An advertisement I designed. Previously  the company had marketed itself selling machines and their ads featured images of machines (like at the bottom).

The new marketing objective was to sell solutions, in this case being drug discovery. This ad shows a visual of the final consumer product , the drug. produced not by the company but by the customers of the company, i.e. customer solutions,  emerging from a pipette, a tool used in the drug discovery process visually  known to all in the business. Of course the idea that a final drug emerges  from a pipette is ridiculous, but it feels like “solution” and its fun.

I made the illustration. it could have been made as a photograph with a lot of work and might have been a  stronger initial impact, but I do not think anyone  who sees this  cares whither its a photograph not and illustration was much less cos.  Its just a stupid fun imaginary visual,  a joke or cartoon but it does, at the feeling level,  position my client as providing solutions for the  customers of their customers and not machines.



3. Two final ads my  client liked,  low hanging fruit metaphor, how easy for a child to get it. The illustration includes the image (the visual representation of the product) computers and  again budget considerations, both of these images were RF (royalty free) stock although I had to modify the design of the  illustration. The photo option was finally rejected as the client did not want the customer—an adult scientist— to misread the image and think they were calling the customer a child.

A NOTE: My professional  philosophy concerning marketing communications design (I was a marcom designer, not a marketing agency which develops marketing strategy) was that the client determines marketing objective and marketing strategy and the job of designer is to visually implement the marketing strategy to realize the marketing objective.

Along Alameda Creek

I try to fast walk—at 74 I cannot jog anymore and when I moved my office home  in 2007 I used to fast walk four miles in 50 minutes, now  its about 60 minutes—everyday  along the Alameda Creek which is at the end of the street. I take my little camera  with me, as well as the Archers podcast for the day.  Here some of the spring scenes this year.








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