Following today’s group presentations, I started thinking about how negative space is used in design. Edward Tufte’s opinion is that effective layering of information is difficult, and he’s right – every time I see an excellent example, it really jumps out at me and makes me think about the images presented and how they interact, and of course, it doesn’t happen all that often. Interestingly enough, the pleasure my brain takes from deciphering such images calls back to the typology of Phillips and McQuarrie from earlier in the term. It seems that their typology can apply to more than just advertisements, and this theory of design reminds me of their definition of “richness [as] a matter of ambiguity, not in the negative sense of opacity or confusion, but in the positive sense of multiplicity and polysemy.” (Phillips and McQuarrie, 120). Negative space, when used in a positive and effective way, creates another layer of meaning operation on top of the immediately obvious first impression.

Talking about negative space usually brings to mind familiar a example, that is, the vase created by the white space between two black profiles. I decided to look around for other examples of well-used negative space and found the following, among many others.

In the first image, two wine glasses added together create a third element, the piano key. I love how the notion of elegance is expressed through fine dining and music, all within one simple logo. The next one shapes the branches of trees into wine bottles, again using very simple imagery to tell a more complex story.




Of course, not only logos use this design technique – it’s also often present in artwork. In the image below, the paint bucket and the animals+their environment create the outline of the African continent.



L’art pour l’art

Here’s a snippet of thought on the Walter Benjamin reading from today’s presentation:

Benjamin clearly doesn’t like the idea of art created purely for aesthetic purposes; although he’s insistent on the “aura” of art, he abhors the idea of art having no use other than existence. To him, art without purpose is a fascistic notion, especially since it glamorizes the destruction of war. The problem with this interpretation is that art can still be created for its own sake now and it causes no wars, no suffering. Quite honestly, it seems like the Aesthetic movement, where this idea took hold, was far too languid and hedonistic to ever feel the need to be involved in a war.

Walter Benjamin also refers to a certain slogan of the fascist Futurists to support the idea that art for its own sake is inherently destructive. While in the context of its time, the phrase “let art exist, though the world perish” likely endorses destruction after all, it says something completely different to me. It seems to suggest that art will go on through destruction and will exist long after man has left the world. Rather than vying for destruction, it talks about the infinity of art. While this is surely not its intended meaning, it is the one I see reflected in these words.

However, I do agree that the notion of art for art’s sake as a whole is entirely unmanageable in reality. Without purpose, art is hard to enjoy. If I can’t invest myself emotionally into a work of art or find some relevance in it to myself, or even to the surrounding world, then I find it unnecessary. Art should solicit reaction, whether political, emotional, or simply an appreciation of skill. Saying that art should stand stoically on its own and not relate to the world takes the enjoyment out of it. Walter Pater, in The Renaissance, talks about achieving the greatest amount of pleasure and the highest quality experience out of art; however, he also believes in the aesthetic principle of l’art pour l’art. This seems to me like a contradiction of terms. To achieve the highest quality experience would mean to relate or to invest oneself in the work – but then, aren’t you also drawing use out of art? Thus, enjoyment invalidates the phrase.


Let’s Try This Again

Here are a couple of new suggestions to replace our rejected ones.

This first one is for Shoppyland, a German mall, and it’s an example of Fusion-Similarity – so this is only useful if Quinn’s Disneyland advertisement is connection after all, and I believe it is.

ImageProfessor O’Gorman kept stressing that fusion works best when the logo is involved, and that’s what’s going on here. They basically took their logo and turned into a series of advertisements comparing their mall to different things. In this case, it’s a carnival, but there’s also one for summer in the shape of a popsicle and an Easter one made out of chocolate.

This, or the very first toothbrush-lightsaber ad would work for the category.

I’ll update this post over the weekend with some more ads.

A Last Minute Change

Alright then, so going over the ads for the presentation, I noticed that the ad I posted for fusion-opposition falls more readily into the replacement category. Here’s a different one:

ImageStill creepy, I know. Fusion-opposition was surprisingly hard to find, since advertisers don’t often like to associate their products so closely with negative aspects.

This ad is for the Beijing Women and Children’s Development foundation, so their service is the safety and health of the child, which is manifested through food in this case. However, the fusion of dangerous or just plain nasty things with the apparently safe food also provides opposition.

Ads, continued.

Let’s see if I can bridge some of the gaps in our ad collection. There’s a couple here that I’m not sure about, but we can discuss their positions in the grid later on, if they work.

First: Lego


I’m still not sure at which degree text becomes an issue and begins to interfere with our interpretations of the image. Technically, that tagline beside the logo provides the context, but with a little bit of thought, you could get the same message just from the image. It’s interesting how the Phillips and McQuarrie analysis begins to fall apart when the image consists of more and more elements, isn’t it?

Moving on to the analysis itself, the ad clearly depicts the fusion of Lego with the grandma’s dentures. However, you can’t say that the product is connected to grandmothers or teeth, nor is it similar or opposed. The fusion is literal, but it also represents the boy’s creativity, implying that nothing is really that bad when you have Lego to fix it. So there is a connection, but the connection is to an idea rather than something physical in the image.

Verdict: Fusion-Connection

Next ad: Itchy Scalp Shampoo


This ad is clearly going for shock value. I shudder when I look at the image, and I get the feeling that I’ll be reminded of it every time I itch my head from now on, imagining ants crawling over my scalp… Definitely effective.

Besides the obvious effect of fusion, I’m going to call this a controversial opposition. While you might consider the comparison of an itchy scalp and a hive of ants a pretty good example of connection, shampoo itself is as far from this as it gets. Think about the example Prof O’Gorman gave during his lecture: a dog’s face replaced with its backside, signifying bad breath in an advertisement for breath mints. I think think ad provides the same kind of association.

Verdict: Fusion-Opposition

And one more: Anytime Fitness

anytimefitness2Juxtaposition seems to be the hardest category of complexity to find, even though it’s the simplest on the spectrum. Guess people are just too smart these days.

I’m going to say this is an example of connection. Having a membership with this gym means you don’t have to take time away from other important things in your life, so it makes a connection with busy people.

Verdict: Juxtaposition-Connection

NOTE: Whoops, for some reason I thought we were missing connection, not similarity. Well this isn’t useful at all.

That’s it for now, see what you make of these.

Some more ads!

Warning: this post may be longer than intended. I keep finding more and more thought-provoking ads, and I can’t seem to narrow them down – but like Matt said, it’s good to have variety when it comes down to the actual project. I also focused generally on print ads, since it’s much easier to find high resolution images for those as opposed to photographs of billboards and the like.

A quick sidenote: I wonder how many of our ads will overlap with other groups’ selections…

First off, let’s have some minimalism (these aren’t actually high resolution, but the Jeep image would be fairly easy to resize).


Combine the off-road capabilities of a camel with the ferocity of a wolf, and a Jeep is born. Using very simple colours and silhouettes, the ad manages to say everything it needs to without resorting to text.

It’s hard to place this one, however. At first glance, I want to say fusion, since we see the outline of a Jeep in the layered silhouettes – however, does the silhouette actually mean the Jeep is present? Or does that not count? Otherwise, it would be replacement. I throw this one out to you guys: I’m leaning towards fusion, but what do you think?

No matter which level of complexity this ad exhibits, it’s clearly a comparison of similarities, since it’s attributing the characteristics of these two animals to the Jeep.

Next up: Haribo Gummy Bears


This one is definitely replacement. Why? Well, it’s not juxtaposition or fusion, so that’s all we’re left with.

It’s also comparing the flavour of the candy to an orange, essentially saying there is no difference between the two, placing its meaning operation under the category of similarity.

That was easy!

Next: Fortis Bank: Plastic Surgery Loans


I realize this one has text on it, but since I assume none of us speak Turkish, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Two images side by side make this a juxtaposition, simple as that.

Its meaning operation is a bit more complex: you get our loans, you get to look however you want. That is to say, not like the girl on the left. At first, I thought this was opposition, since the two images are clearly opposites. Then I remembered that the product has to provide opposition, and that’s entirely absent from the image. Instead, I’m going to call this a connection: our loans will lead you to this.

Last one for now: Senior Self Defense Academy


Not too sure about this one since the text pretty much explains what it is, but it’s also just a logo. Thoughts?

Again, this is an example of replacement, since we’re seeing the aftermath of the fight. However… is this a connection? As in, the defense classes are connected to seniors beating up thugs with their walkers. That seems to make the most sense to me, but if you guys don’t agree, it’s open to interpretation.

Alright, this post is getting too long, so I’ll continue this in a part 2 later on. Give me your feedback!