photographs & design

Photography is a window to the readers imagination.

–Steve Teare

PHOTOGRAPHY IS A PRINCIPLE communication device for design. Good photography generates interest and curiosity. It has energy. The most powerful or novel words in the body text, when converted to images, enable the viewer to quickly fill in the blanks.

Photos frequently influence the theme color palette. If photography is beyond the budget, illustration sometimes works in its place but not necessarily for products. Products need the realism of photography even if it’s only a dummy or mock up. The potential customer will generally not believe an illustration or drawing is a real product.

Text placed over photos usually ruins the type and the photo simultaneously. About 30% of space in a publication is allocated to photos, as a rule of thumb. Besides photography as rectangular boxes on the page, it adds interest when we include a cutout photo object or two. A cutout is a photograph from which the background is removed to produce an organic edge. This image breaks the grid. Word wrap can be used around the edge. It’s a visual break from monotony and gives more life and freshens a page.

Photography helps the customer visualize what a product will be like in their possession after delivery. This should give a feeling of empowerment to the customer (not for the product or company.) The customer gets to be the hero, not us.

I’ve worked for a lot of tech businesses. I insisted on photography and not illustrations of products. Subconsciously, engineers and scientists wonder if the product is “vapor-ware” or a pseudo product if there aren’t photographs.

In one case, my client felt intimidated by a new competitor. They asked me to analyze the newcomers strengths and weaknesses. I saw that the “product shots” were only realistic-looking Photoshop illustrations. I told them they were probably several years away from introducing the product. They were relieved. And the product never did come to market. The company was just fishing.

That is characteristic of the tech market.

Clichés actually are very “good” when it come to icons and logos. Why? Because of fast recognition, memorability, and meaning. We know instantly the connection. It isn’t “distinctive” necessarily but human beings succumb to clichés all of the time. It’s a subconscious “mental shortcut.”

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