Part II: Cohesive Visual Style
Describing a “Cohesive Visual Style” is tricky because there are so many factors to consider. Cohesive style isn’t about creating a finite look, but rather a fluid, evolving set of visuals realized through the great collaboration of many. So really, this blog post is about “Cohesive Vision” and the importance of the symbiotic connection between artist (be it illustrator, photographer or director) and the creative minds behind any campaign.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, it is well-known that creating and using carefully curated visual media uniquely positions a company apart from it’s competition. Barilla understands this, and so do many other famous brands such as Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola. That’s why these brands are instantly recognizable. This is by design; the best brands communicate visually.
In a cohesive visual style, there are two major components. First, cognitive in-depth research and testing reveals verifiable results. Secondly, information from the first step is translated into an interpretative artistic form. Cohesive style does not come from artistry alone; there must be a highly organized and carefully structured foundation. For my part, the magic is in how I, as a photographer or director, work in collaboration with the marketing and advertising team, balance both components to communicate the message.
Ok, so what do I really bring to a Cohesive Style? For each client and each product the answer is different, but here are some elements that I feel differentiate my style. Some creatives come to me because we have a history of success. Some of my collaborations go way back… like 30 years back! Trust and loyalty make a powerful combo. First I bring almost 40 years of listening and collaborating with the client’s needs and goals, while keeping the existing brand elements in place. My goal is for every photo to tell a story. Others come because I’m still a romantic and believe in the beauty of creating stories… the client’s story. With every project, the end goal is always the same; To dictate and inspire a compelling story. To create real moments, raw emotion, and honesty.
Sometimes the associations being drawn are not as literal as we see in the Pilot campaign, as you will see below. The photos in my award-winning series, Dreamscapes, also show a cohesive visual style but in a more fantastical manner. Each photo echoes the other. The series evinces a sense of whimsy and childhood wonder. The element of flight is represented prominently, but the vehicle is always unexpected. A very prominent sky with happy blues and glowing white clouds speak of freedom and letting go. This series creates associations within viewers that allows them to make connections with these emotions, drawing them into the image. Consumers are bombarded by so much content, online, on television, in print advertising that they are simply fatigued by images. That is why a series of images that take branded guidelines into bold new narrative territories, such as Dreamscapes, are essential to grabbing a customer’s attention.
I approach building a cohesive visual style by adopting familiar and trusted elements of the brand while engaging the customer in new and interesting ways. My goal is to advance a brand, not maintain a rehashed and tired presentation. So I try to create an image that is instantly recognizable and distinctly representative of the brand that will generate sensitive emotional associations with the product.
For example, this campaign I worked on for Pilot carries a concise visual narrative that reads well across the entire series. The agency asked to create a series of lifestyle photos depicting an individual’s reflective moments while using a Pilot pen. Casting of the talent was crucial to building the visual story. It was important that the person in the shot appear relaxed, contemplative, with a sense of joie de vivre about them. Our client felt black and white photos would work best with this concept similar to the campaign I shot for Miromar Resort. For Pilot, the use of black and white photos highlighted with just a splash of different color on the pens and script headlines to mimic ink color, was brilliant. This subtle touch visually differentiated the shots while serving to tie them together.
Creating photography and cinematography that is both beautiful and successful takes hard work, and substantial investment, but the investment will yield higher returns if you place a priority on developing a branded identity with a uniquely differentiated and cohesive style. Marketers and scholars have conducted extensive research showing that customers respond overwhelmingly more favorable to visual media that has a consistency of style. Customers want photos and videos that have familiar elements applied with consistency and in a logical way that relates an entire visual narrative, not over one image but over all of the images that your brand produces. Brands that curate this type of cohesive visual style gain greater customer allegiance, as well as reaping greater returns on their investments.
To read more of this series, please click the links below:
Overview: The Value of Branded Images
Part I: Brand Differentiation through Visual Media