The Complete Graphic Designer
Depth of Meaning
Messages must connect with viewers at many levels
beyond mere aesthetics in order to resonate and be re-
membered by viewers. The more the audience views a
message that speaks to them on an emotional level, the
more likely they are to comprehend and remember the
work. According to Marty Neumeier, there are seven
layers of depth of meaning in visual communication:
1. Perception
The aspects of visual solutions that make us look at
a piece. Visual hierarchy, contrast, color, and imagery
are all formal qualities that grab the viewer’s attention
and draw him into the work. Multilayered imagery and
graphics, as well as other cool-looking visual “eye candy,
may pique the viewer’s interest but fail to communicate.
2. Sensation
Images with tactile qualities cause viewers to experience
gut reactions to the work. Such images have the power
to either repulse or arouse the audience’s curiosity.
3. Emotion
Appealing to the viewer’s emotions rather than his
reason has enormous power of persuasion. Positive
and negative emotions such as love, trust, confi dence,
and fear are all employed heavily by advertising to sell
products or lifestyles.
Happiness is a convincing, emo-
tional quality used in advertising
design. A strong visual of two
bolts and a wrench that form a
smiley face suggests that the
automobiles in this ad are reliable
and dependable.
Design: B. Communications
and Advertising
By replacing certain letters of a product’s name
with images of food, the product’s intended
use is made immediately clear. Additionally, the
packaging for this everyday household item
stands out among the competition because of
its visual interest.
Design: Turner Duckworth
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Design for Communication
4. Intellect
The power of words in design and subtleties such
as wit and humor appeal to both right- and left-brain
rationale. Likewise, images requiring audience partici-
pation and interaction reward the viewer with deeper
comprehension and understanding.
5. Identifi cation
Everyone has a psychological desire to belong to a
group, whether it is an organization or a movement.
Design that connects on an emotional and intellectual
level, such as corporate identity and branding, often
forms deep personal connections with an audience.
6. Reverberation
Nostalgic imagery often elicits comfort and depend-
ability in visual messages. Referencing history and tra-
dition tends to resonate with the viewer as being true.
7. Spirituality
This is employed when a work’s moral and artistic
qualities converge to deliver a message. Everything
about the visual communication, from concept to ex-
ecution, works in unison. Pieces of this magnitude are
often timeless examples of graphic design.
Color and scaling of type make
this poster appear to bow outward
at the viewer. Three-dimensional
qualities draw the audience into
the piece for further study and
examination, resulting in a deeper
and more memorable connection
with the viewer.
Design: Shinnoske, Inc.
Visual communication that connects emotionally and intellectually with the
target audience is more compelling and memorable. According to Marty
Neumeier, there are seven layers of depth in communication. The more a
designer is able to peel back the layers and reveal the core idea, the more
effective a solution will be. To effectively communicate with the viewer, differ-
ent levels of meaning should be embedded into a design, depending on the
type of project.
Identifi cation
Direct Mail
Corporate ID
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The Complete Graphic Designer
People are bombarded by thousands of advertis-
ing messages every day, so designers must carefully
choose their design strategies. Using the perceptive
capabilities of the human mind enhances the effective-
ness of visual communication. For instance, formal pic-
torial qualities of images affect the way in which the
mind processes information. In western cultures, the
use of shading or chiaroscuro creates dimensionality
on fl at, two-dimensional surfaces, bringing them to our
attention. Likewise, rendering objects in varying sizes
presents different planes within a composition. This is
an oddity in most nations; in many parts of the world
spatial qualities are interpreted as fl at patterns.
A tightly cropped image of a mouth
with a single line of text creates an
effective message about the power
of words and speech.
Design: Ideo
Viewer interaction establishes mean-
ingful connections with the audience,
enticing them to participate with the
visual message. The audio tones made
by telephone keypads are whimsically
transformed into a game that drives
home the message of seeing “new
possibilities. The audience interacts
with the work by dialing the numbers
to create a musical melody.
Design: Bradley and Montgomery
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