VCD Theory Gaining and maintaining audience attention
And maintaining engagement.
How do designers get and hold your attention?
Techniques for gaining attention and maintaining engagement of audiences using visual language
A two step process
What is visual language?
Stories and visual forms
What is visual language made from?
The elements of design
The principles of design
Methods, media and materials
Conventions and genre
Consumers and producers
How do we get someone to look at what we’ve made?
Designers may use several techniques together to gain attention and maintain engagement of audiences. The list on this page is not definitive. It is a suggestion of the kinds of techniques designers use.
The poster at left depicts a joke about Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity. He is waiting for an apple to fall from a tree. However, Mr Newton was un-aware that he was in Australia at the time and in order for things to fall down there, they fall away from the earth!
Shock images often use a controversial and graphic image or tag line that is intended to provoke an emotive response in the audience.
Campaigns that use shock as their way to gain audience attention are often those that centre influencing public opinion by showing the negative effects and dangers of texting while driving, carelessness at work, drinking or gambling to excess or anti-social, racist or sexist behaviour. They are used by government agencies to promote a safer society.
The poster at left depicts the shocking graphic murder of an apple! Contrasting colours and sharp edged shapes have been used to create drama and action.
Personification, celebrities, influencer
The poster at left shows a simple school kid character I have created to promote eating apples at school. Hopefully this light, fun character made of simple shapes and line makes eating a crunchy apple enjoyable.
The poster at left uses nostalgia in its depiction of apples. A palette of subdued colours including a cream as a kind of 'aged white' are combined with rough texture and an old fashioned college style type to create an image that looks like a page from an old style children's reader. Using nostalgia recalls a simple, honest past and is common in 'retro' designs.
The image at left shows a heart used as the Apple logo. The intention here is that people love their Mac in the same way they love their heart. The computer is a vital part of people's lives. The heart is a metaphor for an Apple computer.
Designers represent subject matter in ways to create empathy in audiences. Common ways to appeal to the emotions of audiences include those shown below.
Cultural specificity, inclusiveness
Images can reference culture in such a way to attract members of a specific target audience or to ensure broad appeal for people of different different nationalities. They might include text that attracts people with an international perspective and who enjoy travel.
The poster at left references Japanese culture in its fascination with beautiful fresh fruit, subtle colours and intricate packaging. The type at the top spells ringo which is Japanese for apple. This would attract people who can read Japanese, are interested in travel to Japan and recognise the kind of text or those who just like difference in visual communications. The subtle contrasts in colours and textures create depth that maintains interest.
The poster at left uses a carefully selected group of harmonious colours. This is a limited palette of hues that sit next to each other on a colour wheel. This use of colour, combined with simple flat shapes and contrasting lines, attracts a more design conscious audience or people interested in home decoration.
Style and genre
Images can use design elements and principles and conventions in a manner that creates a recognisable design, photographic or cinematic work from a well known style or genre. For instance, type, images, colours and shapes may be combined to create a kind of homage to the 'Swiss International Style'. Light and shade resemble a 'Film Noir' still, or other effects could create a psychedelic, or 'Bollywood' feel.
The posters at left both use carefully selected elements and principles of design to emulate past styles. The one at left recalls the 'Swiss International or Typographic Style' and the one in the centre, a 'Film Noir' still.
Identifying and explaining techniques.
Try it for yourself
Here is an image from a 2013 United nations campaign designed to expose the extent of sexism in the world. Read about it by clicking the image below.
Gaining attention and maintaining engagement.
Click on the image at left to visit an article on an advertising series designed to reveal widespread sexism.
Read the article and see how the agency Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai came up with a creative idea to use actual Google searches to demonstrate sexism.
See below for a practice question once you have learnt about this 2013 campaign.
Take another look through the examples illustrating techniques designers and art directors use to gain attention and maintain audience engagement above.
Make a detailed search on the internet and find one image from each of the categories. Describe the image in a similar way to the 'discussion' section used above.
- Identify the one or more techniques that Memac Ogilvy & Mather used in the creation of this series of ads.
- Explain how the technique/s you identified were used to gain the attention of audiences.
- Explain what additional factors serve to maintain audience engagement.