We absorb images as fast as the eye can see, sometimes zipping right past consciousness. Just too much to process too quickly. We may get an impression. A feeling. What is it about this room that makes me uneasy? What is it about that person that makes me want to get to know them?
Our bodies physically respond to color. If we are looking to ease tensions, let’s not meet in that red room. Let’s cool down somewhere else. Symmetry and order establish a sense of balance and trust. Vertical lines can draw our eyes upward. Fonts seem to have personalities. Who can take a note in comic sans seriously? When you place that throw pillow on the bed or sofa, sometimes it feels right and sometimes it feels wrong. What is it that makes the difference? We are all in the business of curating our private spaces and finding peace in worlds designed by others. We cannot shut them out.
IMAGES - It is amazing how quickly we process images. Watch someone scrolling through Instagram or other social media. But this ability to take in so much visual information so quickly comes with some risks. Recent research has shown how profound effects can come from the subtlest of elements in a photo. In the research toddlers were shown one of two pictures. Both had an interesting activity in the foreground and a bookcase in the background. On that bookcase, there would either be (1) a small framed photo of two people happily facing one another, obviously cooperating - OR (2) a small framed photo of two people turned away from one another, looking uncooperative. The toddlers shown photo 1 were significantly more likely to help the researcher pick up spilled toys than those who had seen photo #2. It happened automatically. Curating our visual worlds, particularly if we have children, can make a difference.
PAINTINGS & SCULPTURES - Since the time of cave paintings, artists have created ways to enhance stories, to capture ideals, inspire reflection - and to simply reach the hearts of viewers. Caravaggio stunned Christendom with his raw and deeply human depictions of biblical scenes, contrary to the classic idealized versions. One painting and an entirely new relationship to the story. Visual art digs into our assumptions, manipulates color and subconscious drivers. Composition, subject, rhythms can conjure up histories and ethnicities.
SYMBOLS - Most cultures and groups have a set of identifiable symbols that are used as indicators of beliefs or membership. They play crucial roles in group rituals and ceremonies. Some are central to our identities - like our faith or country. The Star and Crescent, the Cross, the Star of David to name a few. Often these symbols are treated as sacred representations, so great care and respect is shown. Abusing another groups symbol is a serious affront. Members feel compelled to defend what is vital in their lives.
Symbols are ubiquitous. School flags and banners. Mascots. School colors. Company logos. Recycling. Bus stops. Restrooms. Deer crossing. You get the picture(s). We navigate easily using coded visual language
FAVORITE THINGS - We all have items in our midst that carry special meaning for us. It might be the ticket stubs from a favorite concert. When posted on our fridge we are reminded daily of that special connection. Birthday cards. The picture of you and your brothers when you were only 10 - sitting under the Christmas tree. These items carry meaning for us. Seeing them in our midst keeps connections front of mind.