A catchy campaign visual is nothing without a spot-on tagline to go with it. A book without a cover is unlikely to sell like hot cakes. And a recipe without a photo won’t make mouths water. Text enhances images, images enhance text.
About two centuries ago, French linguist slash Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion barged into his brother’s office. He dumped a stack of documents onto his sibling’s desk, exclaimed “I did it!” and then promptly fainted. Understandable, really, because Champollion had discovered that Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are not just phonograms that express sounds: many of them also represent entire concepts. Characters like this are called logograms and are still in use today in the Chinese and Japanese writing systems. They offer the rest of the world interesting insights into the direct relationship between text and image. Because in comparison, the 26 or so letters of the Roman alphabet are empty shells without any inherent meaning. Sure: a yellow ‘M’ stands for “make a quick detour to grab a Big Mac” and a white ‘f’ in a blue circle triggers our thumb’s scroll-and-like reflex. But that’s a different story.
Back to the present. Due to the rapid development of the internet and social media, people these days are used to processing information at breakneck speed. We’re fed a smörgåsbord of text and image everywhere we go – sometimes voluntarily, sometimes ad nauseam. There’s always someone ranting about the latest Daily Mail article they read, or about some obscure company trying to sell you toothpaste with bacon flavour. We’ve turned into a nation of compulsive ‘swipers’: anything that doesn’t catch our attention from the very first second is mercilessly scrolled past and ignored. Because of the amount of data we’re forced to process, our viewing and reading habits have changed completely. These days, we instantly want to know what a story is about. That’s where images come into the frame.
And lead us not into temptation
Stunning photos and amusing illustrations grab our attention. The next thing you know, some content creator somewhere has earned another click as we hungrily scroll on to find out more. We may be adults, but our behaviour is remarkably childlike: we first want to look at the pictures, and we’ll only read on if we like what we see. Images, in other words, act to seduce us. They are the number-one medium that can evoke strong emotions in an instant. Our new way of seeing the world has made us eager for that immediacy. A certain type of image in particular is almost guaranteed to appeal to us: high-contrast and razor-sharp photos of someone looking straight at us, in bright and saturated colours… Just take a closer look at some of Netflix’ visuals. They’re almost surreal, but they do exactly what images are supposed to do: grab our attention and make us want more.
While images can touch us deeply, texts can galvanise and convince us. Readers like to feel as if a text is personally addressing them. “Just Do it.” “Because you’re worth it.” Compact phrases like this give us something to strive for and stroke our ego. They’re catchy and loop on repeat in our minds. A great text fulfils the promise of the image it accompanies and, ideally, even adds to it. When we tune in to watch Asia’s Deadliest Snakes, we want to see deadly vipers (preferably while they’re strangling a wild bear or something – even better!). When we click on a newspaper article about yet another B-list celebrity bursting into tears in front of the camera, we want to read the latest gossip. And we want it now! Modern readers instantly want the answer to the who, what, where and how. We also love being presented with neatly packaged conclusions. If we’re not getting enough information, or if what we’re reading feels irrelevant, we feel cheated by clickbait.
Having our cake and eating it: yes, please!
The ideal scenario arises when text and image are in symbiosis. Memes are a perfect example: the punchline of their jokes lies in the witty interplay between text and image. While creating memes isn’t Blue Lines’ main field of work, we do always strive to align our copy with your images. A few tips:
- Not sure whether the image you’ve selected will achieve its goal? Put it to the test. Check how many layers of meaning (positive or negative) you yourself can unearth in the image. In what ways does it speak to you, what does it tell you? Also ask a few others how the image makes them feel.
- Show us your (preliminary) images during our briefing. Or why not go down the Pinterest rabbit hole and create an entire mood board? This lets us work our magic and align our copy with the mood and intentions behind your images.
- Show us examples that fed into and inspired your creative process. That way, we’ll be on the same wavelength from day one.
Oh, and btw
Remember the story of those logograms at the start of our blog post? All of us actually use similar logographic characters on an everyday basis. When we find ourselves unable to capture a feeling in words, or when we want to give our message a certain connotation, we instantly know the solution. Yep: we’re talking about emojis. Here at Blue Lines, however, we solemnly promise never to use them in our copy. Because we pride ourselves on always finding the right words. No matter how nuanced your message may be.