April 13, 2010
 

The Road to the Art (in a) Director's Ad

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By Annye Wong

For me, professional training in design has been the freeway to see a different world in my everyday routine, so it's ironic that most of my commute has been on the subway!

Above the street or below it, my excitement for the business of Madison Avenue always surfaces when I see aesthetically pleasing graphics and ads. They travel and dance along the path that leads to my imagination.

I light up when I see them sprinkled here and there. They have a certain magical phenomenon. It's wonderful when it happens. They rescue me from traditional, cluttered copy, and most importantly possess the power to help me escape the ever-so suffocating clutter. Concept, concept, and concept is the design principle stressed by instructors over and over again. One would assume this becomes a part of you. Not only should it register in you, but it should stay with you and live comfortably in your mind. So then where is the concept in ads that hurt the mind, when their goal was to help it?

An ad is a terrible thing to waste

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Everyday as I commute back and forth, ads that were once ignored-- pushed to the back of the train--are now welcomed as they encounter my discerning eyes. I am confronted with the knowledge of my education to see the artistic skills others have or have not brought to their work. It makes me think about their "eyes", the level of training and talent they possess. And the level of intention and commitment they have behind their eyes, inside their mind. As they say, "you know it when you see it." When it happens, it's something we all understand. It enables us to use our minds to discern clear communicatiion to its maximum potential. We get it. And then there are the ones that we "don't get."

What were they thinking?

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If you're the art director, the owner of these ads, you can manipulate it, tame it, and dictate where the viewers should look at first, second, and last. Hierarchy is something meticulously understood when viewed with the knowledge of typography, space, and layout.

Being a New Yorker, I've been struck with successful ads campaign on the subway. I scrutinize each intricate piece, so dainty and delicate in its own conceptual way, which embodies every good designs' grace and virtue. Is the type family blissful?

Ouch!

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Or is the type family dispersed into the open space, not bunched up. I find that spreading and breaking the typeface may breed a new type of typographical style that others cannot stand to overlook. Everything old becomes new again.

The simplicity of a layout should urge a viewer to look at the service or product's selling point. The typeface, be it italic, bold, serif, sans serif (or one of the many others) should parallel the voice of the ad campaign. When the designer and writer successfully implement the ad with scintillating wit and humor; and at the same time communicate the message and concept of the campaign, the viewers will remember the campaign. They don't try to block it out; to push it behind the back of their minds. Don't you agree?

How can you not love this?

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So on a subconscious level, good designs tend to be stored in a special place in our mind. They should possess the power to emerge and reemerge. Numerous exposures to a good ad can trigger the same emotions the viewer had the first time, even without the reader having to re-read or re-watch or re-listen to the message. The ingredient is to have nuances that "strike a pose" that the viewer did not see or hear before. Sometimes, they feel as if they come looking for you, above or below the street!

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Annye Wong is a freelance designer with experience in integrated graphic arts and commercial comunication. She can be reached at editor@madisonavenuejournal.com.

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