Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

What Makes an Image Compelling

In 1991, Molly Bang, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, published a trail-blazing book, called How Pictures Work, analyzing how the structure of an image works to engage the emotions of a viewer and how the elements of an artwork can give it the power to tell a story. If you can find a copy in your local library, it is worth spending a couple of hours reading it, because you’ll spend the next year reflecting on it.

In her book, Molly investigated how changing shapes, positions, and colors would affect the visual telling of Little Red Riding Hood. In Figure 2.10, we see a visual representation of Little Red Riding Hood in the middle of the forest, about to meet the wolf. However, while the image evokes the story of Red alone in the forest, it isn’t particularly scary. How could she change the composition of the image to make Red meeting the Wolf scarier?

FIGURE 2.10

FIGURE 2.10 Using simple shapes cut from construction paper, Molly Bang experimented with the best way to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood visually. (From Picture This, ©2000 Molly Bang. Used with permission from Chronicle Books, LLC)

As a result of her work, Molly discovered 12 principles that detail how the structure of an image affects its effectiveness. The first four describe the effects of gravity on how we perceive an image; the last eight reflect the world of the image itself.

1

Smooth, flat, horizontal shapes give us a sense of stability and calm. In fact, smaller horizontal or horizontally oriented shapes within a picture can also be felt as islands of calm.

2

Vertical shapes are more exciting and more active. Vertical shapes rebel against the earth’s gravity. They imply energy and a reaching toward the heights or the heavens. If a horizontal bar is placed across the top of a row of verticals, stability reigns again.

3

Diagonal shapes are dynamic because they imply motion or tension. We tend to read images diagonally from left to right, the same way Westerners read a page of text.

4

The upper half of a picture is a place of freedom, happiness, and power; objects placed in the upper half also often feel more “spiritual.” The bottom half of a picture feels more threatened, heavier, sadder, or constrained; objects placed in the bottom half also feel more grounded.

5

The center of the page is the most effective “center of attention.” It is the point of greatest attraction and stability. However, shifting an element off-center makes it more dynamic because the edges and corners of the image are the boundaries of the picture world. Everything stops at the edge.

6

In general, white or light backgrounds feel safer to us than dark backgrounds because we can see well during the day and only poorly at night.

7

We feel more scared looking at pointed shapes; we feel more secure or comforted looking at rounded shapes or curves.

8

The larger an object is in a picture, the stronger it feels.

9

We associate the same or similar colors much more strongly than we associate the same or similar shapes.

10

Regularity and irregularity—and their combinations—are powerful. Though perfect regularity and perfect chaos are both threatening.

11

We notice contrasts; put another way, contrast enables us to see.

12

The movement and import of the picture are determined as much by the space between the shapes as by the shapes themselves.

Molly concludes, “When we look at a picture, we know perfectly well that it’s a picture and not the real thing, but we suspend disbelief. For the moment, the picture is ‘real.’ When we are just beginning [to design], we often constrain our pictures…we make all the elements fairly similar in size; we tend to use the center of the page and avoid the sides; we tend to divide the space into regular sections; we tend to go for realism rather than essence.…And very often we sacrifice emotional impact for ‘prettiness.’ Do not worry about whether the picture is pretty. Worry about whether it is effective.”2

Molly Bang illustrates the power of these principles in Figure 2.11, which is strikingly more dramatic than Figure 2.10. As you’ll learn, her principles extend our original Six Priorities. Let’s explore these ideas further by looking at several specific visual composition techniques.

FIGURE 2.11

FIGURE 2.11 Again, simple shapes, but much more dynamic, exciting, and scary. Molly Bang’s principles explain why. (From Picture This, ©2000 Molly Bang. Used with permission from Chronicle Books, LLC)

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020