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It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it

I just need it to “pop” a little more

For the designers out there: Has a client ever asked you to make it "pop"? What does that even mean? In a sea of messages and advertisements, finding the right look and striking the right balance between high visual contrast and real estate is key in developing a finished piece.

vw-think-smallVolkswagen advertisement shows modernization in the 50's and 60's by Julian Koenig at Doyle Dane Bernbach

It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it

Yes, I'm a big fan of clichés, there's usually lots of truth and a wealth of knowledge and years behind them. Lots of people buy space on a billboard and want to make sure they get every square inch out of it. I think people rely on looking at the piece as it is, and not as it will be. Understanding the context in which the piece will be viewed is in most cases the most important part.

Capitalize on the market

A salon puts up a sign that says "$10 haircuts". A competitor down the road may get more bang for his buck by putting up a sign that says "we fix $10 haircuts". Does that "pop" enough?

When it comes down to it we all need to step away from initial concepts and look at the impact within the intended environment. Taking ourselves out of the subtleties of patterns, shapes and stylistic elements and seeing it as whole. Simply making something "pop" doesn't mean to just lay in high def, bright gradients and lens flares, it lies in the over all context of which the piece will be perceived. The foundation, the structure.

Design for human nature, not for design sake

Let's take a look at this idea in the context of human nature and not as "designers". Just as our minds are amazing differential machines, they are also limited processors. We've all heard the term less is more right? There is something to that. In the current media space we are bombarded with messages, and we've developed mechanisms to deal with the constant onslaught of visual stimulation. These mechanisms are indifference and avoidance. The noise that is created by conventional designs simply goes by unnoticed.

Honda_DenverWater_AdCampaignAn effective Denver Water advertisement demonstrates a strong commitment to simplicity, consumption irony aside

So where does things bring the less is more? Less may get you lost in a sea of brands but you can sleep well knowing that at its root your message and appeal was yours and not made of others willingness to make noise or follow convention. Some of the best and most studied advertising make use of vast negative space, limited colour palettes and pointed messages that challenge our cognitive load.

Stick to your guns

Noise is short lived, "a flash in the pan" if you will. It has its place at trade shows, infomercials, product launches and small innovations, but in the grand scheme of developing a brand with longevity, noise can be your demise. Here are some tips on forming your next advertisement:

  • Throw convention out the window
  • Focus on where the Ad will be
  • The circumstance in which it is being viewed
  • Assess potential visual distractions
  • Come to grips that you'll always offend someone
  • Not everyone is going to "get it"
  • Play off the competition if it works
  • Make it personal
  • Challenge the viewer
  • Always use high visual contrast

The next time someone asks you to make it pop, there might be an opportunity to step back to think twice about that request and the underlying concept in the first place.

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Paul Phillips
Written By

Paul Phillips

Co-founder, Partner and Creative Director at Jackson Wynne @tack_paul