The Shock and Awe In Advertisements!

The last chapter reading for Visual Communication class was “Chapter 4: Visual Persuasion” or better explained, advertisements. I never would have thought another term for advertisement would be “visual persuasion”, but after reading the chapter it makes a lot of sense. In Chapter 4, visual persuasion images’ major ploy to persuasion is the shock value that it gives to viewers causing them to stop, look, and take in what they are seeing. However, with that shock value that advertisements attempt to create, one must understand the difference between the many different types of advertisements and the information they share with their viewers. Along with learning the differences between different types of advertisements, the chapter also share the history of advertisements and what they do in different fields. The aspect of the chapter, that stood out the most to me was the shock value of advertising. According to the chapter, “Because of the photography’s ability to arouse viewer interest and occasional condemnation, controversial and unusual pictures are sometimes used to shock potential customers to get attention.” When I read that, all I could think about was the many advertisements that I have seen that have seriously caused me to stop and wonder.

This commercial above, is an example of an advertisement that I feel speaks to viewers’ emotions to grab their attention and cause them to wonder. I am very strongly against smoking, especially tobacco smoking. My grandfather died of lung cancer due to tobacco smoking when I was only 8 years old. I barely knew him, yet today, and almost every day, I wish I had had more time to know him. His smoking took that opportunity away from me. Would he have changed, if this ad was around back when he started smoking instead of the belief at that time, that cigarettes weren’t dangerous? I don’t know, but look at the advertisement again. The message of this advertisement is that adults spend every day telling children that smoking is bad and listing the horrible effects that it can cause for its users to experience, but they never think to tell that to themselves. It also points out the effects that it can have on those around you that care about you.

This advertisement, makes me wonder what kind of effect it would have on smokers here at Longwood. Every day I am surrounded by smokers, and it breaks my heart to see them slowly, essentially committing suicide as they actively put harmful chemicals into their bodies. For me, this advertisement shocks me with the hypocrisy it portrays and it makes me want to be a good role model for children in my life by practicing what I preach. Would this advertisement have the same effect on smokers here at Longwood as it had on the viewers where it was broadcast and inspire them to quit? This advertisement is powerful and I think it may actually do the trick, or at least, I’d like to believe it would.

 

The ‘Then and Now’ of the Internet

This week’s Visual Communication chapter was all about the web and its effect on the communication and information learning of today’s society. In reading about the history of  “The Web,” it has come a long way from its humble beginnings of being used just for the military during World War II. Now, the internet is a complex cyberspace highway for information to travel from one place to another to be to be shared and this highway is to be used by everyone! While reading this chapter, I learned about the different software used and the many different applications that became available as the web grew bigger and bigger, and included more and more users. The chapter also discussed the different perspectives in which to view the web and its many uses. As I read the list of the top ten worldwide sites on page 408 in the textbook,which was focusing on the cultural perspective, I realized that I use six of the ten sites almost daily. This made me think about all the different ways people have used the internet as it was developed and grew, how it is being used today, and its many applications that are used each day to to create something new on the web!
As I thought about this, I realized that I use the internet daily in different ways and that I am able to do things differently than my grandparents and parents did when they were in college before the internet.

BlastToThePast

In the graphic that I made above, I compared the sources for entertainment and shopping for items we need for daily life before the internet with those we have today. People that once had to depend on the choices of disc jockeys, television schedules or a store’s hours in order to listen to music or to shop can now find what they need as easy as 1-2-3 with simple clicks on the internet and personalize their choices. Today, instead of turning on a radio people can now go on Pandora or Spotify and pick exactly what type of music they want to listen to or by choosing favorite artists and songs to make a playlist and listen to music on the web. While television is not just controlled by the big networks like CBS, ABC, and NBC and cable and satellite has given us more channels but, it is still controlled by their schedules and unfortunately, that also means commercials. Both the schedules and commercials are a reason why today people turn to the internet and go on Hulu or Netflix, to watch their shows or movies on their own time and with no commercial interruptions. Finally, my personal favorite, shopping is no longer limited to specific hours a store is open or to just the stores in my neighborhood. Now, shoppers (including myself) can search for shoes, clothes, furniture, home goods, or whatever I need with just with the click of a button and buy them from all over the world!

The internet in my life is used not only for entertainment and shopping but I also use the internet to research for school papers and to connect with my friends through emails, Skype, social media and Facebook. These uses would never have been imagined by my grandparents and parents when they were in college. Today, I realize that they have grown up with the internet and use it almost as much as I do and for many of the same reasons. This makes me wonder what the internet will look like and what new uses it will have when I am their age?

Television and the Characters That Become Our Family

Chapter 10 of Paul Martin Lester’s Visual Communication, was all about television. Like many chapters discussing different aspects of visual communication in this textbook, we learned about the history of television and then many different perspectives surrounding television. One perspective that I could immediately relate to was the cultural perspective in which, “The basic unit of television isn’t an individual program but a continuing series of episodes with the same characters in comfortable surroundings.” It’s those television shows that you see the same characters week after week, and are able to connect with on every level motivating viewers to want to come back and watch the characters time after time. One popular show that is still airing today, but premiered in 2009 on the ABC network, is Modern Family.

Over the course of the series, viewers have had the opportunity to get to know the three families within the the Pritchett extended family, episode after episode as they watch the characters grow older and grow closer in this new perspective of a “modern family.” The book says that, “Television is more a medium of personalities than stories… subtle character developments reinforced by close-up shots that fill the frame with the face of a friendly actor works well for television,” and it certainly works well for this television show! In Modern Family, you watch the  characters grow and get to know their inner thoughts and opinions while in quick cuts with personal interviews with each of the characters in which they are talking directly to the audience through the camera’s recording. Each of the characters has a different personality. Starting from the patriarch, Jay is the old traditionalist man and grandfather. Gloria, his younger wife, is the loud feisty Hispanic along with their blended family including younger sons Manny and Joe. Phil, is the dorky loving father married to Jay’s daughter, Claire, who is the manic Type-A hard working mother. Cameron is the flamboyant gay partner to Jay’s son, Mitchell, who is a lawyer and tries to avoid acting like the gay stereotypes. Jay’s grandchildren also vary in age and stereotypes from the adopted Asian girl to the not so bright teenage boy, the brainy young college girl, and the ditzy party girl. The Modern Family family is crazy, random, and a little dysfunctional, but always in the end you learn some kind of valuable lesson about family, that they had just learned in the episode, and you feel even closer to all of the characters as a result.

Cinema At Its Finest

Chapter 9 of Visual Communication by Paul Martin Lester, was all about Motion Pictures. In it, we learned all about the techniques of the great film directors such as Orson Welles and Gregg Toland, along with the complete evolution of cinema. Film has gone through a lot of changes over the years and much of the improvements are accredited to the forward thinking innovators who simply wanted more out of motion pictures and decided to experiment. This chapter was by far my favorite of them all, not only for its topic on motion pictures, but how they changed the way people view the world. In reading about the different forms that motion pictures came in and the terminology that produced them, I learned a great deal on the many intricacies behind movie making. The most important thing I learned and that held the strongest impact on me, was the statement that, “The opening of the movie is a metaphor for the entire picture.” Now this statement was used as an opener for the section on the creation of the film, Citizen Kane, but after reading this I immediately thought of another movie that that statement can hold true for and that movie was Grease.

In Citizen Kane, this metaphor was explained in how the opening shots of the film contain Kane speaking in a voice over saying, “Rosebud” then cutting to the movie. Finally, at the end of the movie it is finally made clear why he was saying, “Rosebud.” The textbook explains that a shot is a continuous picture that the camera doesn’t stop filming. In Citizen Kane, the opening shots together lend the air of mystery of the entire film and then thus the mystery behind the word “Rosebud.” Shots in series are what creates the whole film, and the shots in the opener Citizen Kane is what makes the metaphor true. The same, could be said for the film, Grease. In the opening shots you see Danny and Sandy enjoying romantic walks along the beach together. Then the opening cuts a close up of the couple holding each other dreading the end of summer and thus the end of their romance. Danny wants to make their final kiss better by intensifying the passion and pulling Sandy closer, but Sandy gets nervous. Not wanting to spoil it she pulls away and becomes fearful. Right there! You can see the difference in their personalities, but also see the strong love they have for each other. These motifs of differing personalities and yet strong love is played throughout the movie as you see Danny struggle to choose between his bad boy image, and his strong love for innocent Sandy. This, then leads you to wonder throughout the whole movie, will they be together at the end? Will Danny decide to keep to his bad boy image and give up on Sandy? For those of you who have seen the film, well, you know the answer, but to everyone else, what do you think he chooses?

Typography Is Writing, and Writing Is Typography

Chapter 7 of Paul Lester Martin’s Visual Communication was on typography, or writing slash print. Now in this chapter, we not only learned about different writing styles and the many different attributes that come in writing and type, we also learned about the history of print. Going back as far as the Sumerians with cuneiform, writing has gone through many changes over the years to give us what we have today. Then, from a historical perspective, after the Sumerians came the Egyptians with hieroglyphics, the Chinese with calligraphy, then the Phoenicians and the Greeks with the Greek alphabet which closely matches the current alphabet we have today. Today, our writing has a variety of attributes and current alphabet options. Writers use our basic alphabet along with modern computer publishing techniques to grab readers attention! Writers have to make many choices as they add different typefaces like blackletter, roman, script, square serif and sans serif. Then, with that, writers also have decisions to make as to which of the the different “typeface attributes” like size, color, and font to use in their books, periodicals, documents, promotional media, websites,and social media platforms.

Flier

When it comes to the attributes of words such as their font, size, and color there is a lot to take into account. Take this advertisement for the 5k Peeps Challenge, as you look at it you will see in this advertisement the colors, font size, and style all play a specific part to communicate “fun” to the readers as the organizers try to get people to sign up for the event. Even the background colors behind the “DASH & DYE” are important because they are all Easter colors. The white outline around the letters allows us to be able to tell the difference between the black lettering and the colorful eggs. Then as for the size of the letters, they seem to relate to the order of importance of the information about the event. First the name of the run is the most important and is in the largest and most attractive font placed on the colorful eggs. The font chosen for the sponsor is the copyrighted font for the Peeps candy found in many Easter baskets. This is followed by the less eye catching and important words, written in Arial font which just identifies this as a 5K Run and Easter festival. Clicking on the image online takes you to the event page and where the reader could enter and participate.

The typography used in this example shows how a writer’s choices of typography is important to reach their goal of grabbing readers’ attention in our current digital era identified in the textbook as beginning in 1984. Today, the computer allows all writers to choose specific text choices to match up with different audiences more easily as compared to earlier eras in order to get them to read their printed material.

Picture Worth a Thousands Words, but Worth One Emotion

In reading Chapter 11 on Photography, we learned about the history and the criticisms that come with this artistic medium. For many years, photography was used to capture a moment in time to be perfectly documented for the future. However, the medium itself went through many changes before coming to what we are used to seeing today, as with each change the images created became better and better. Therefore enhancing people’s perception of the world through the eyes and creative mind of the photographer. Today, not only can photography be used to capture a moment or image in time, it can also be used to convey an emotion that only the photographer can make you feel.

TheVultureAndTheChild

Take this Pulitzer Prize winning photo taken by Kevin Carter, The Vulture and the Little Girl.  This particular photograph is an example of social documentation. In this cultural perspective of photography, photographers take specific pictures of images with the goal to spark an interest and pull at the emotional heart strings of their audience. These pictures are taken to shed a light a on particular social issue that they believe are troubling with the hopes of bringing about change and encouraging people to act on the issue they see to help find solutions. This picture was published by the New York Times, and was a totally effective photograph that communicated the message and emotion the photographer was attempting to convey. This photo of a frail malnourished African child laying in the fetal position while a buzzard stalks it, waiting for the child to die is both heartbreaking and full of despair, yet an extremely accurate depiction of the horrible struggles the people in Africa endure.

Cartoons and CGI

Practically ever since civilizations mastered the art of drawing, cartoons have played some role in our history by giving us visual entertainment while interpreting people, politics, commentary on life, and graphic storytelling in books. In fact according to Chapter 7 of the text book, on Cartoons, “Comic strips, comic books, and animated movies are considered by many to be art in itself. Most people believe that cartoons are those animated movies and television shows directed for young children, but in fact, cartoons is just the larger category that holds many of the subcategories that actively entertains many of us today! The main category of cartoons can be broken up into 6 perspectives; personal, historical, technical, ethical, cultural, and critical. In each perspective you delve deeper into the history of cartoons in how we got from stick figures moving to motion picture, the many names that fall under cartoons, and the ways in which these names are used to convey a variety of messages to viewers. For the purpose of this blog, however, I  want to talk about the technical perspective. My favorite part of this chapter was learning about Computer-Generated Imagery (or CGI). Reading the chapter got me thinking about my favorite CGI movie. Now there are a lot that I am obsessed with that I could talk about including Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter movies; however, even with all that said, the CGI movie that was just above and beyond your average CGI movie for me, was Avatar.

Setting aside the fact that James Cameron is a certified genius behind the camera, it was the technical producers that I feel should receive the most recognition. With their innovative creativity in CGI, they created an animated world that felt so much like live action! I saw the movie when it first came out in 2009 and let me tell you, it was outstanding! I genuinely felt like I was on Pandora. First placing the actors in a metal sphere, the thousands of cameras take thousands of pictures per minute photographing every inch of the actors’ bodies. The goal was to make sure to capture every inch of each actor’s body and muscles to better transfer onto the computer to create a virtual skeleton of the actors every movement on set. However, the only way to capture every single movement was to put the actors in black tight suits with motion capture dots that the cameras all around the room would capture as the actors moved. The biggest, technical problem was capturing the emotions and facial expressions of the real actors. Instead of digitally placing an unrealistic face onto a CGI body, or completely using prosthetics, the producers created a tiny headset camera that captured every aspect of the actor’s facial movements at every moment.  With this technique, the creators took mocap, motion capture, and made it into performance capture. It’s a two part animation dream!

The Wonders of the Infographic

This week, we read Chapter 9 on “Informational Graphics,” or more aptly known as “infographics.” Infographics are, “visual displays that can be anything from a pleasing arrangement of facts and figures in a table to a complex, animated interactive diagram with accompanying text and audio that helps explain a story’s meaning.” Infographics are very visually appealing and a great way for people to learn information in a fun interactive way. They can come in many different forms, and as early as the 1600’s people were using infographics to share data or share important information in a format that would be more visually appealing for readers. I personally love the infographic format, because no one likes staring at random black and white data that can be confusing or makes barely any sense at all! Talk about a snooze fest!

I believe infographics are super helpful, and over the years as more and more infographics began to rise from research experiments, data analysis, and correlation tracking; infographics were split into 6 different perspectives. Of the 6 perspectives, I found the “nonstatistical infographics” to be the most interesting because they don’t really have too many requirements, thus allowing you to include a little bit of everything! Last year, for one of my Communication Studies classes, I had to create an infographic on a nonprofit of my choice. My nonprofit was the Southside SPCA, and below is the infographic I created.

SouthsideGraphic

In this infographic, I used different icons or fact boxes to illustrate the kind of data that I was talking about. Notice that when I gave a number statistic about dogs, I used dog icons. Then, when discussing their location, I used a map and a locator symbol. Finally, when I was discussing financial information, I used a dollar symbol. I felt that using those icons to express what I was talking about would then make it easier for my readers to scan for important information simply by looking for the symbol that best correlated with the piece of information they were looking for. Now, the textbook mentions icons as one nonstatistical miscellaneous format to use when creating an infographic, but if I was to attempt to make this infographic a little less cluttered, maybe I could use some other formats to illustrate my points in my infographic. To improve the infographic, I could have included a flow chart to show Southside’s important history and why the work the do is so important. Or instead of paw prints for each point of Southside SPCA’S mission statement, I could have created one big table with each point, so it’s all together and easier to understand.

Overall, I think my infographic turned out great, if I do say so myself. It’s simple, easy to read, and most importantly it’s fun; which reflects what Southside SPCA is all about. Having fun with animals and caring for animals that need a forever home. Infographics can be a little stressful to make sometimes, but just imagine how easy it will be to get information across when the information is visually appealing and actually draws people’s attention to the topic. To me, infographics are a valuable tool.

Sticks and Stones Will Break Bones, But Stereotypes Will Always Hurt

In Chapter 5, of Visual Communication by Paul Martin Lester, we learned about the many different stereotypes that all forms of communication create and relate towards its viewers.  Everyday, we are exposed to a variety of images that essentially pigeonhole our views of different demographic groups. According to the textbook, these pigeonholed views are called stereotypes, and almost 24/7 we as viewers are causing people to create certain views solely based on how the group is portrayed in media. African Americans are portrayed as “gang bangers”, Hispanic/Latinos are portrayed as “drug mules” or living in the ghettos, Asians are portrayed as “perfection obsessed robots”, and even in today’s society LGBT groups are portrayed as outspoken radicals. It’s heartbreaking, but with each event described in media we are subjected to these “misinformed perceptions” of different demographic groups, we create our own perceptions that mirror what we are shown in media or in pictures.

While Family Guy is not a perfect example of all horrible stereotyping, it does prove my point about how stereotypes are communicated by television shows, movies, and if you listen closely enough news channels. I am adopted from Colombia and I have many relatives who are Colombian. We are considered Hispanic and often find ourselves stereotyped. Now, I can say with certainty, none of my relatives (or myself) are as slow, ignorant, are only able to find work as a maid, drug dealers or criminals as this compilation makes Consuela and her family members out to be. Now being adopted, I can not claim to be 100% Hispanic especially by the fact that my parents are basically American and therefore I was brought up in the American culture. Even so, it has always annoyed me on the numerous negative stereotypes floating around surrounding Hispanics and how often people make comments when they are “joking” that relate these stereotypes to me or my relatives. Stereotypes that we see in movies, television, and pictures only fuel the flame of the already ever growing misinformed fire in audiences. Not all Hispanics are dumb. AND not all Hispanics (Donald Trump) are illegals. Unfortunately, these negative stereotypes of Hispanics are everywhere and sadly, with the lack of corporate representation or more positive news stories in the media, the amount of false stereotypes of Hispanics probably won’t be decreasing anytime soon.

So can we at least mitigate the situation? Well I say, yes of course we can. If we continue to bring attention to strong, smart, positive Hispanic role models; slowly audiences may begin to see them in a less stereotypical light. In media, Hispanics are severely disenfranchised in how they are being represented but if images of positive role models succeeding or even being portrayed in a more appealing light on news shows or in television and movies, maybe Hispanics will be given more respect in the real world? The book says that, there is a “need to build solid bridges between superficial, stereotypical, and visible symbols…. to change people’s minds about diversity.” America is probably one of the most diverse societies in the world and we should be proud of the diversity that we have, not hide it under mountains of stereotypes or lies.

Constructivism on Your Favorite Homepages

In Chapter 3 of Visual Communication by Paul Martin Lester we learned about the different Visual Theories that are used to explain how people understand what they see. The visual sensory theories are concerned with how the brain sees, or does not see, the different visual cues of color, form, depth, or movement. In the Constructivism Theory, of the Visual Sensory Theories, listed in the book, we work to understand exactly how certain visual cues are noticed and how others are not noticed. Julian Hochberg came up with the Constructivism Theory to explain “eye-fixations” as a way for viewers to make sense of their own perceptions. In his experiments, Hochberg used eye tracking machines to monitor what how the participants looked at an image. In the study, by using graphic images, it was found that viewers found the largest picture on a page first, and then looked the headline for the story.LongwoodHomePage

 

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As I thought about this concept, it made me think about how webpages are designed and if the Constructivism Theory influences how organizations, news companies, or businesses use visual communication theories to get their messages across. Look at these two homepages. On the left, there is Longwood University’s website home page. Then on the right, there is CNN’s online homepage. Notice which pictures and images on the homepages are the biggest items on the pages. Then notice that the headlines’ textboxes for each image are the second largest items on each page. This goes with Hochberg’s experiment that the first thing we see is images, then the words that describe them. This set up of homepages, played straight into our perceptions and how we recognize visual cues. With the Constructivism Theory, our eyes first fixate on the largest object due to its form, or size. Then our eyes scan for what goes with that image that first drew our attention.

These organizations might have chosen these images for the simple fact that we as humans are naturally curious. Therefore, when see a picture of a woman with on hand on a book and another held up, on the Longwood homepage, we are instantly curious what the picture is about and what it means, which is then what leads us to look at the headline that accompanies it. Same with the CNN homepage. We all know about Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and that they are two of the Republican candidates running to be chosen as the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election. With their larger picture at the very top of the CNN homepage, using the Constructivism Theory viewers are instantly interested in what is happening with them, now. Which will then lead the viewer to click on the headline to learn more. Both organizations chose to highlight their images for a specific reason. However, the motives that Longwood and CNN have for choosing to place their large pictures on their pages are possibly quite different. Longwood University prides itself on celebrating and acknowledging citizen leadership in its community and students. The picture with the “Citizen Leader” headline is what they want people to identify with Longwood University. Their motive seems to relate a university news story with branding versus the CNN homepage that seems to simply wants readers to know about the major new story that is circulating the U.S. surrounding the Republican presidential fight for the presidential nomination.

The Constructivism Theory focuses on how our eyes fixate on different aspects of an image, and for what reasons. The Visual Sensory Theories applies different every day visual cues to help us understand how we see and what draws our eyes first. The Longwood University and CNN web homepages utilize the Constructivism Theory to determine the best way that messages can be shared with their viewers. What the organizations want viewers to know first and foremost is the biggest image on the homepage, followed by its headline, then other slightly less pertinent information that viewers would need to know or that the organization wants to communicate.