Images evoke memories and connect people
It is often said that advertising experts rarely invent anything, they prefer to find things. Is that the case?
Hemmert: Advertising experts presumably want above all for us to feel at home in the world that is created or invented in advertising.
Today we know that Barnard also "found" instead of "invented." The saying is first found in Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev's 1862 novel Fathers and Sons, and in it it reads, "The picture shows me at a glance what it would take dozens of pages of a book to explain." But for advertising, this little cheat was sustainable, wasn't it?
Hemmert: There's a great game that makes it possible to experience the gap between words and pictures. It's called "Silent Post Extreme. Here, you always have to alternate between drawing and writing something. The first person draws a picture, passes it on, the next person writes on the following page what he or she has seen and now passes on the word. This goes on for a few rounds and the result is always something different, because every translation brings mistakes with it. The perception of each individual is also different.
If you look at advertising today, that was valid for a long time. An interesting countermovement can be observed if you look at chatbots in social media. Here, they often try to manipulate opinions using only words. They don't show pictures precisely because they don't want to be perceived like advertising; they want to be perceived like real people.
Where do you think advertisers find their inspiration today?
Hemmert: If advertising means selling people things they don't need, for money they don't have, to impress people they don't like, then that inspiration is to be found in people's needs. It's scary that Facebook, for example, as one of the richest corporations in the world, doesn't have a product that it sells - except advertising. Advertising is only worthwhile if it manipulates opinion. And that seems to work, whether for products or for political interests.
But images can also be used therapeutically. In a current university project funded by the BMBF (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research), we are working with other partners to develop a system for seniors in retirement homes who can look at old photos together with their grandchildren via virtual reality conferencing. The family photo album reinvented - in the context of dementia prevention. Here in particular, pictures have a very important meaning, because they awaken memories and provide topics for conversation. We know today that the subconscious can be activated very well by pictures. In this context, images promote memory and create connections to other people. And here we come back to our initial question, because in these cases a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Uwe Blass (conversation from 10/15/2021)
Prof. Dr.-Ing Fabian Hemmert studied media design and interface design in Bielefeld and Potsdam. He earned his doctorate in Berlin. Since 2016, he has been Professor of Interface and User Experience Design at the University of Wuppertal.