Advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations in general that aim to advertise or promote follow principles, practices, and techniques in order to accomplish their objects. Often, the objective of advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations is to communicate a specific message to the audience (Barker, Valos, & Shimp, 2012; Shimp & Andrews, 2013). Similarly, the message often intends to stir a positive and productive response on the part of the audience. Within the context of consumerism, the objective of advertisers and graphic designers that work for business organizations would be to create images in advertisements that would appeal to the audience as consumers. In other cases, advertisement offers a way for organizations to merely communicate an idea or a vision (Barker, Valos, & Shimp, 2012; Shimp & Andrews, 2013). The practice of creating images in advertising relates to one aspect in psychology called the Gestalt theory and approach. Gestalt, which concerns the concept of wholeness, relates to advertisement because of its underlying principle of perception (Smith & Taylor, 2004; Zakia, 2013). Advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations try to create images in a particular manner that would not merely appeal to the intended audience but would also yield specific ideas or images in the way that people would perceive these images. The link between Gestalt and advertising will be explored in the succeeding discussion, including examples of advertisements that describe the nine grouping laws under Gestalt as an approach in creating advertisements.
Gestalt Grouping Rules
Gestalt, as a theory or approach, is based on the concept of the ‘unified whole’. Its basic principles include the Principle of Totality, which highlights the importance of viewing and experiencing people, places, events or phenomena, among others, in their totality, that is the individual not only takes in the physical but also the mental, emotional, or spiritual inferences o these experiences (Beebe, 2006; Schindler, 2004) . Gestalt also assumes that individuals tend to view, interpret, and understand things by following or adopting patterns, grouping, or order. Gestalt laws of grouping explains these patterns of thinking, understanding, and interpretation. These laws will be discussed in the latter section of the paper. In advertising, the grouping rules of Gestalt applies. It is primarily an approach in psychology but Gestalt applies in advertising because this discipline relate to the human psyche, behavior and culture. Furthermore, outcomes of advertising are tangible and these includes images or symbols that can be interpreted in so many ways, and a different yet definite way when all the parts are taken together within the appropriate context (Carpenter & Huffman, 2009; Coon & Mitterer, 2008). Through advertising, businesses and organizations can communicate an idea that ideally should directly appeal to consumers. Within the context of consumerism, the expected end result of advertising to consumers is often the kind of response that spurs consumption. Nevertheless, advertising objectives in general aims to communicate and promote specific messages. The discussion will focus on the role of Gestalt grouping rules in the way that advertisers, graphic organizers, and organizations construct advertisements with the audience’s gaze in mind.
As previously noted, perception is an underlying principle in Gestalt. Essentially, perception refers to the way that individuals analyze, view, or understand people, things, or events among others. Within the context of behavioral psychology, perception may reflect the conscious or subconscious of individuals. Hence, perception is important in Gestalt, which values wholeness, because it shows the whole or entirety – covert and overt – of the individual as he or she perceives people, things, or events (Beebe, 2006; Schindler, 2004). Perception in advertising is valuable because it creates meaning for the images in advertisements. Within the context of the Gestalt approach, there are two parts of the whole – the advertisement that also contains different parts such as objects, and the perception of the audience. The meaning of advertisements manifest in the way that individuals view or perceive them. Gestalt suggests that people’s perceptions are influenced by innate capabilities to organize objects. Advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations take advantage of this by creating images that would allow the audience to perceive them in a way that would be beneficial or advantageous to the former. Overall, the Gestalt principle, based on the nine grouping laws, prove that people perceive images in a specific manner. As a result, advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations take advantage of this by creating images that would appeal and be identifiable through the common ways that the audience perceive or interpret images (Prochaska & Norcross, 2009; Samara, 2014).
The Audience’s Gaze
The audience’s gaze, which is comparable to the populist gaze, underscores the role of the audience in receiving and interpreting messages. Creating images and symbols from the audience gaze means the conceptualization of messages or ideas and the process of communicating them from the view or perspective of receivers that function as the audience (Fleras, 2011). To better understand the audience gaze and its relation to Gestalt as a principle and approach, we can envision any image. The way that we, as the audience, view the image and the way our eyes move around the image, which consequently allows us to create or decipher meaning, are based on the way that we organize or group the objects, symbols, and patterns in the image. On the part of the advertiser, graphic designer, or organizations creating advertisements, they have specific goals in doing so. To appeal to the audience, advertisers, graphic designers, and these organizations arrange objects, symbols, or patterns in the image in a way that the audience can discern the meaning through the way they inherently group or organize what they see. Images or advertisements in general that generate the desired or intended response from the audience, meaning successful advertisements, are those that were created with the audience’s gaze in mind (O’Guinn, Allen, & Semenik, 2011). Advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations create images considering what the audience will see and how they will respond to the images that they see in advertisements. This consideration facilitates Gestalt as a practice because advertisers, graphic designers, and organizers aim to establish the wholeness of advertisements by considering not only the images in the ad but also the audience’s gaze.
Gestalt Grouping Rules in Advertising
There are nine grouping rules that include the following: (1) continuation, (2) similarity, (3) proximity, (4) parallelism, (5) symmetry, (6) common region, (7) connectedness, (8) common fate, and (9) synchrony. Each rule will be explained in the following:
- Continuation: Continuation enables the movement of the eye or the gaze from one object to another object in an image.
- Similarity: Similar objects, symbols or patterns in the image allows the viewer to homogenize them or to look at and interpret them as a whole. Grouping similar objectives in images reflects unity.
- Proximity: Objects in the image are in close proximity to one another, signaling the image as a group of objects or symbols
- Parallelism: Parallel objects are grouped together because they create a linear pattern.
- Symmetry: Symmetrical objects are grouped together because they create balance or equilibrium in the image.
- Common Region: In a common region, objects that are part of the whole, are grouped together. Grouping of these objects depend on their position in the image. If these objects are in the same region, then they are grouped together.
- Connectedness: Objects in the image are grouped together because they are connected in some way. Hence, if there is a connection between two or more objects in the image, then they are grouped or taken together based on this connection.
- Common Fate: Objects in the image flow because they follow lines or paths. The eye then follows the line or the movement of the image and places the position of the object in the image.
- Synchrony: Some objects in the image can move or change. The objects that move or change at the same time or in a synchronized manner are grouped together. Synchronized movements or changes in the image create a specific pattern.
Each law of grouping will be discussed using specific objects or outcomes of advertising in the real world. The logo of Coca-Cola below, for instance, illustrates continuation. Good continuation is evident not only in the font used in the logo but also the band below the text. In Figure 1, continuation in the font and image allows the audience to read the entire name of the company by following the flow or continuation of the word. In terms of advertising, this familiarizes the audience with the name or logo of the company not only with the color but also because the images that facilitate the flow of movement guides the audience to read the brand name. As a result, the audience that reads the brand logo will become familiar with the name. Following the flow of the line, specifically its continuity is highly important so the audience can remember the brand’s long name.
Figure 1. The Coca-Cola Logo
Figure 2 below shows the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) logo, which shows the principle of similarity. NBC’s logo shows similar shapes that allows the audience to view the image as a group. Each image in the logo has a different color than the other but the similarity in the shape and arrangement influences the audience to see the objects in the image as a group. Consequently, when the audience sees the objects as a group, they will understand that NBC’s logo is that of a peacock, which was intended to signify the rise or emergence of color television.
Figure 2. NBC Logo
Figure 3 below shows the logo of Blackberry. It shows similarity because of the similar shapes of the objects but it also shows proximity. The objects are located in close proximity to one another, which shows unity, and therefore, allows the viewer to group the objects together. Proximity plays an important role in Blackberry’s logo because if the shapes were any further apart, then the audience would not be able to see that these objects form two ‘Bs’ that represent the words ‘Black’ and ‘Berry’ in Blackberry.
Figure 3. Blackberry Logo
Figure 4 below shows IBM’s logo that shows parallelism. The parallel lines in between the image run through the company’s name. Parallelism in the logo shows a trend in copying in the past during the beginnings of IBM as a company. During that time, old printers could not completely print text logos. Usually, text logos were printed with bars or lines similar to IBM’s logo. For this reason, the company decided to use the logo along with the bars or the lines. Hence, parallelism in the image reflects the company’s beginnings and history.
Figure 4. IBM Logo
Figure 5 below shows the logo of Motorola. The logo shows symmetry since two objects of the same shape and size are placed alongside one another to create balance and show the letter “M” that signifies “Motorola”. Symmetry is important in the logo because it shows the first letter of the brand’s name. Clearly, the letter ‘M’ has symmetrical lines and Motorola adopted this symmetry in their logo, which makes it easy for the audience to remember the brand because of its first letter.
Figure 5. Motorola Logo
Figure 6 below shows the logo for Norway’s geotourism campaign. The grouping of the objects in the image shows the principle of the common region. The logo shows three separate images occupying different regions in space. Similar images are grouped in a common region – the leaf, which symbolizes nature, such as forests, is grouped in a common region within green space, and the waves, which symbolize water is grouped in a common region within the light blue space. Common region functions as a means to illustrate what Norway has to offer to tourists. The logo was created to support Norway’s geotourism campaign. Using common regions to separate the objects in the image was necessary to symbolize different geographic features that tourists can explore by visiting Norway.
Figure 6. Norway Geotourism Logo
Figure 7 below shows Audi’s brand logo. The circles that are linked to one another clearly shows connectedness among the objects in the image. Audi had to create a logo with four interconnecting rings because the company has undergone several mergers with three other automotive companies during the 1930s. It is for this reason that connectedness applies to the logo to indicate the mergers.
Figure 7. Audi Logo
Figure 8 below shows the logo of Michelin. It illustrates common fate because the object – both the Michelin man and the text – follow the pattern or flow of the line. The line shows the common direction that both objects follow in the image. The line that directs the flow of common fate for both the Michelin man and the brand’s name was necessary because the company sells tires, which is closely linked to direction. The line indicates the flow or movement of tires, which the Michelin man’s body is made of.
Figure 8. Michelin Logo
Figure 9 below shows the Route 2 brand logo. It shows synchrony because the images shows unity in the objects that follow the same direction. The contrast in color shows the objects in the image that move or flow in synchrony – the direction the blue line follows synchronizes with the number 2, while the grey loop also synchronizes with the word ‘route’. This is especially evident if the logo included movement or change in the color. If it were an interactive image, then the objects in blue will light up or move at the same time, while the same thing will happen with the grey-colored objects. Moreover, the logo shows synchrony because it refers to a route or direction and synchronized movement will allow the audience to follow the exact route indicated in the logo.
Figure 9. Route 2 Logo
Analysis of the logos used in advertising the identified brands reveal that aside from following the rules in grouping under Gestalt, advertisers and graphic designers also create objects based on the significance or meaning of the images. This means that advertisers and graphic organizers do not exclusively apply the grouping rules but also take into consideration brand image or reputation. This guides the rules in design, which will be discussed in the next section.
Rules in Design
Based on the foregoing discussion, design in advertising follows pre-established rules that would help advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations involved in the process of advertising create images that would not only carry intended ideas, messages, or vision, but also those that the audience will respond to. The foregoing examples show that the primary rule in design is to create objects in the image that would accurately represent what it stands for. All the examples show links or relation to the brands’ history, goods or services, and brand image, reputation and image. Hence, advertisement must be aligned with what the organization or business stands for. Aside from this, design must also focus on invoking the audience’s gaze. Advertisers can do so by applying the grouping rules when putting together images. The rules apply to different objects or goals in advertising, as illustrated by the examples. Overall, advertisers or graphic designers should consider using objects in the image that the audience can easily organize, consequently, allowing people to easily interpret or understand the message or idea behind the advertisement.
Gestalt plays an important role in guiding the practice of advertising. First of all, Gestalt encourages advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations to view advertising from a multidimensional perspective that is not only towards the goal of creating an advertisement but also considering the audience’s gaze. The duality in this practice illustrates the concept of wholeness in advertising such that it is not only a practice of creating images that mean something but also doing so considering the audience’s gaze or the way that people would respond to the image. Gestalt also plays an important role in advertising because it allows advertisers, graphic designers, and organizations to anticipate the responses or reactions of the audience towards advertisements. Based on the laws of grouping under Gestalt, people perceive and interpret things in different ways. The nine grouping rules under Gestalt show the different ways that people follow movement or flow in images. Consequently, advertisers, graphic designers, and organizers use these pre-conceived rules of interpretation or perception to create images. They do so in a way that would attract the audience or elicit desired or intended response from the audience. The nine grouping rules under Gestalt help accomplish this objective. The foregoing discussion illustrates how these rules affect design in advertisement in a practice.
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