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What Exactly is an Ad?

March 21, 2011
The Witches by Goya

The Witches by Goya

I don’t know about anyone else, but the last week or so has felt very unsettling, very strange. I’m sure it’s related to the disaster in Japan. It is so overwhelming, tragic and sad. I just can’t seem to  digest what seems to be incomprehensible cruelty upon the lovely people of this island nation. (And I don’t mean to belittle the events in the Middle East, in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, but the visuals to the eye are quite different in Japan at the moment.)

Prior to all of these events I had been commenting in a series of posts upon the elements of good design. In the first newsletter I focused upon light and movement, using George Seurat’s painting, “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” as an example.

The second installment in the series looked at balance and tension. Here I cited a Volkswagen ad with Snow White in the image and a Loctite Glue ad as examples for the visuals.

All the while I’ve been trying to plan visual examples of other important elements to good design, and my mind kept coming back to the two artists in this post. No, none of these pieces are ads. That just seems so trivial at the moment to use an ad that’s trying to sell an ordinary, everyday product.

Goya’s painting “The Witches,” at top, has all the ‘elements of good design.’ It’s just not an ad for anything. Or is it?

Perhaps anything that sends a message is, in some form, an ad for something. In Goya’s case, perhaps he’s trying to say we are all unsettled, disquieted and out-of-sorts. Perhaps that’s his ‘ad’ to say, “What are we going to do about it?”

The Colussus by Goya

The Colussus by Goya

In “The Colussus” I see parallels to Japan’s quake, tsunami and nuclear problems towering over the populace – a problem bigger than the people. It seems not unsimilar to “The Witches.”

I’ll leave out the discussion on light, movement, tension and balance in these paintings since these fellows obviously know how to create these elements of design in spades! Even in a very chaotic piece, such as Heironymus Bosch’s creepy “Hell” (below) these elements are brought together in a wholly original way.

Hell by H. Bosch

Hell by H. Bosch

Are they ads? They may not show a product or a company logo, let alone a slogan, but in many ways, these paintings are ‘ads.’ They are selling questions and choices. “How do you want to live your life?” and “Are you bothered by this?” and “Do you want to go down this road?”

We’ll return to our regularly scheduled blogging shortly, but for now, “What are we going to do about it?”

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