“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This quote is as known as it is true.
Although we live in the digital age that is – technically speaking – ruled by 0 and 1 our brains are analogue. When we listen to music we forget that it is composed of single notes since to us they automatically form a melody.
The same goes for pictures that are the subject of this post. If you look at Monet’s gardens your eyes will see the colours and the brush strokes but your brain will immediately set to work and before you know it you conceive the image of a beautiful summer garden.
In other words: pictures and melodies make us understand the creator’s Idea.
And only if you are a painter you will dissect the art work in its components like materials, techniques, age and other technical aspects.
THE BIG IDEA
I believe that there are at least three types of pictures to which we relate differently.
Museums all around the globe host Millions of paintings. Some are as famous as the “Mona Lisa” and everybody knows about its high value, recognizes it on prints and probably knows the artist. The same can be said about Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” or Rembrandt’s “Night watch”.
Paintings of this calibre are every museum’s pride and represent the best PR-instrument since they guarantee a certain amount of visitors.
But why does this work? In my humble opinion “Mona Lisa” is not particularly attractive and I don’t think that the “Night watch” appeals to everybody.
The reason these paintings function like magnets is because of their fame. The origin of their glory vary. “Mona Lisa” for example is famous for her mysterious story and because experts attested her to be painted with the so called Sfumato-technique that makes outlines disappear and which is one of da Vinci’s inventions.
Knowing the ten most famous paintings has not much to do with art but rather serves as a kind of representation of somebody’s educational level.
Plans and Sketches
Pictures can convey complex ideas a lot better than words. Imagine to build a house, a ship, a car or a plane without as much as at least a blue print to start with. Every detail will be developed and re-drawn on this basis.
The idea of blue prints seems to be very old. In the antique city of Ostia near Rome archaeologists excavated mosaics that were less perfect than all the other ones. Guess what? The “second class” pieces were not made by an amateur but for a different purpose. They were sketches made by experts to explain war strategies or trading systems to the rulers.
The eye catchers are following us and we follow them. Where ever we go, whatever we are looking at we find pictures, billboards or even animated images. They represent the spirit of the time probably more than any other kind of image I can think of.
The printing machines made image reproduction easy, quick and relatively cheap. Already at the beginning of the 20th century tourist hotels, car manufacturers, cinemas and consumer products maintained PR campaigns supported by very artistic posters.
Of course this process was heavily accelerated by the digital graphic programmes and of course by the Internet.
WHY DO PICTURES STILL WORK
On top of this post there is an illustration you could hardly miss. I am quite sure that it is not only due to its size but because it conveys the idea of the article. Maybe not even my idea but you own.
Pictures and colours have an immediate effect on our subconscious which reacts about 25 000 times (seriously!) faster than our thinking. So they really hit us immediately and uncontrolled.
Moreover, even for our brains language is totally inefficient compared to pictures, since our eyes can conceive information about one hundred times faster than our hearing.
Apart from this figures I believe that beauty is a value of its own and does not need any further explanation. And yes, I know that images slow down the loading process of a website. But I am sure your customers and readers happily wait for something as appealing as a nice picture.