Melanie Evert, Art Director at The Blue Room, shares her insight on why a brand needs to communicate effectively.
“Mommy, look at what I made for you!”
As a parent working in the field of design, I naturally started out with high ideals for my child’s visual education. No mass manufactured animation, poor design, or lazy illustration would be allowed. As with most parenting resolutions, these ideals quickly fizzled out when tested by the negotiating skills of a pre-schooler.
I had jokingly considered the visual education that I would like to present to her, but I did not anticipate the reverse: the gifting of the day’s artwork back to me. Let’s just say I was not prepared for the forceful emotion of being presented with a work of art that gives you a glimpse into how your munchkin sees the world.
“No, Mommy is not sad; I am crying because I am happy about how good your picture is!” And because I want to display this for everyone to see how smart you are growing up to be, while at the same time freezing you in carbonite, so that you can stop growing up at all. Mom logic, am I right? So instead of calling the curator of MOMA, up on the fridge it goes.
Each time I walk past the latest masterpiece, the design ideology in me kicks in again. I am sure child psychologists, educators, sociologists, anthropologists and the like will have very different interpretations of the fridge art from me. Assuming anyone else is as enthralled with the hieroglyphic scribbles as I am. But I cannot help to observe how ingrained visual communication is.
I know I never taught the munchkin how to draw the sea, yet she knew to draw a wavy line to represent it. In turn, I was immediately able to recognise it. Perhaps she saw it from a friend at school, but that again shows that, not only was she able to recognise the symbolism, she immediately adopted it into her own visual communication style. Are children already socialized to conform to specific visual communication styles? Given the vast amounts of YouTube cartoons that were consumed during lockdown, I would imagine it is possible.
On the other hand, I am a fan of Gestalt theory in design, whereby the human brain aims to simplify visual information by subconsciously organizing it into understandable groupings. Some argue this stems from evolutionary psychology, all the way back to when we quickly had to make sense of our environment to prevent being eaten by a sabre-tooth. It explains why I was able to recognise that eight loose triangles are meant to indicate a row of ice creams, rather than just loose shapes. (Also, just look at the expert use of the design principles of proximity and repetition!)
Now that I have observed my test group consisting of one five-year-old, how will the findings affect my design methodology?
It echoes what good design has instinctively known all along: that a brand cannot rest on aesthetics alone. That there is a science to design and visual communication that is often overlooked or underestimated, in lieu of what looks good. From cave art all the way through to emojis, there are behaviours and tendencies that must be considered for a brand to communicate effectively, and also to be interpreted correctly.
This is why we are enthusiastic about our work, and why we would like to do the same for your brand. Let me just grab my crayons.
Written by Melanie Evert: Art Director, The Blue Room