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Techniques for
gaining attention
& maintaining engagement.

Grab &
Hold interest

'Techniques for gaining attention and maintaining engagement using visual language' is taken from one of the Key Skills in the VCE Visual Communication Design Study Design (p22). This page will explore visual language and the ways designers use it to gain the attention and maintain the interest of target audiences.
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A simple graphic to illustrate this concept.

A TWO STEP PROCESS

The practice of gaining the attention of audiences and maintaining their engagement is a two step process. It involves the effective use of Visual Language. Simply, what images, colours or words does a viewer see first, then what keeps them looking. Students should look for the use of Visual Language and find relationships between image and text created by elements of design including; colour, shape, type and principles of design including; balance, contrast, scale, proportion.

GAINING ATTENTION

Every good visual communication will have one significant component that grabs attention. It might through vibrant colour, a dynamic image, a huge slab of text or a combination of these working together. It might also be through the theme presented. (See below for a list of possible approaches to gaining attention of audiences.) Which ever technique is used, designers create an arresting feature.

MAINTAINING ENGAGEMENT

Once the audience is hooked by the first thing they see, designers allure audiences with secondary content of a visual communication. In communication design, this often includes type that is smaller than a heading or image and further information or details about something. Engagement may also be maintained by the use of apparent mistakes to language, spelling, visual puns or layout devices that intrigue and create questions in the viewer and leave them to ponder on it.

model analysis

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The graphic shown above.

sample question

Making reference to the target audience, explain one technique the designer has used to gain attention and one technique used to maintain engagement in the image above. In your response provide evidence from the image.

sample answer

The target audience for this visual communication are male and female secondary school students studying Visual Communication Design. This is evident through the relevant content and use of gender inclusive type and colours. A technique the designer has used to gain attentions of the audience is the huge slab-serif heading in vibrant yellow. The type has been given a 3-d effect and appears to recede in perspective leading us from left to right, further into the design. Together with a bright red, it is immediately arresting. A technique used to maintain engagement is of the audience was to break up the remainder of the text into smaller chunks and layer them as if they were taped onto the poster. Finally, an 'eye' icon sits above with receding lines leading the viewer out.
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Visual language.

Visual language is a system where visual components are used to communicate ideas and information between people. Visual language is fundamental to Visual Communication. Let's see how.

What is visual language?

Humans communicate. We use sounds, images, words, gestures and smells to do so. Communication with words is called literacy. Similarly communication with visual content is called visual literacy. Another name for visual literacy is visual language. Visual components such as colours, shapes and images are used to build meaning in a message in a similar way to the way meaning is constructed from words using literacy. There are many media and arts forms that use visual language to communicate between people. And in parallel with the fact that literacy exists in many languages and cultures, the process of encoding and decoding ideas with visual language varies in structure and interpretation between different cultures and places in the world.
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Visual Language (components shape, colour, line, contrast, etc.) can be used in place of words to communicate effectively.
OPSM logo (https://searchlogovector.com/ opsm-logo-vector-svg/) Accessed 26 October, 2019.

Components of visual language

Visual language is made from many components, just like written language is made from many components of speech. Below are the components of Visual Language used in Visual Communication Design.

  • Elements of Design = the most basic unit of Visual Language (like letters in English language)
  • Principles of Design = the ways the units of Visual Language are organised and relate together
  • The methods, materials, and media = the ways communication with Visual Language is made from, with and on
  • Semiotics = the way communication actually works including the use of signs; icon, index and symbols
  • Conventions and styles = the stylistic trends forming the ways Visual Language is used in different cultures and in different periods of time

visual language in action

Take a look at the three beer labels shown below. Given that they all promote the same kind of product, consider how they each use Visual language differently to communicate different ideas about their product. Review the list of dot points above to identify and describe which components of Visual Language have been used.
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Crown Lager.
(https://cub.com.au/our-brands/)
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Fixation.
(http://damiankellydesign.com/fixation)
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Spitfire.
(https://www.beersyndicate.com/app/ Beer/Details/79459)

Jump to

For further information on Visual Languag click the link at right.

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Visual Language

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Established techniques.

In addition to purely visual strategies designers also use conceptual and metaphoric techniques to gain attention and maintain engagement of their audiences. Below is a small list of these techniques. These are not all of the approaches, just a few.

HUMOR

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Description

Images can be used to depict a funny scene or situation. This includes making visual jokes and puns.

model analysis

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

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Description

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.

model analysis

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.

PATRIOTISM

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Description

Patriotic images use national colours, animals or symbols to evoke a feelings of pride, loyalty and nationalism.

model analysis

Typical of visual communications seen across the United States, the colours from their flag, red, white and blue have been used to create the poster. Stars and stripes have also been used to enhance the familiar. You would be surprised how many images use patriotism, even subtly to attract and engage audiences.

PERSONIFICATION, CELEBRITIES, INFLUENCER

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Description

Visual communications can use a real or fictitious character or influencer to form a relatable link between a product or idea and the audience.

model analysis

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 seem enjoyable and irresistible!

NOSTALGIA

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Description

The technique of nostalgic uses images that recall the past. Colours, type, textures or visual devices recall a lifestyle where life seems to have been honest, friendly and simple.

model analysis

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.

METAPHOR

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Description

A visual metaphor is an image that is used to represent something else. When an image is used metaphorically it shares similar characteristics to the idea being represented.

model analysis

The image at left shows a heart to represent the Apple computer 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.

EMPATHY

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Description

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 ENVIRONMENT

Images and colours can reference the concept of sustainably to reduce the environmental impact of consumption of designs.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Images can reference social or ethical issues such as gender equality and homelessness.

model analysis

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.

FORMAL QUALITIES

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Description

Visual communications can use carefully selected and often striking combinations of Elements and Principles of Design to engage and maintain the interest of audiences. The visual construction of design is akin to the expressive quality of fine art and can be used by designers to organise and present ideas that influence audiences.

model analysis

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

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Description

Visual communications 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.

model analysis

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 Style' or 'Typographic Style' and the one in the centre, a 'Film Noir' still.