Posted in Visual Storytelling

Emotion in Theater

What is emotion? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines emotion as “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body” (merriam-webster.com). Without emotion, everything would be bland. Which is why storytellers have such an important job in today’s world. It’s even harder for visual storytellers to tell a story. You can convey emotion through words, but through movement or pictures it’s a lot more difficult.

Enter the world of theater. Theater creates emotion through words, movements, facial expressions. Nearly everything that happens in a show has a purpose and causes an emotion. This is why emotion is incredibly important in the world of theater. Different directors, designers, and actors go about showing emotion in a multitude of ways. Not one is the same. Which makes sense since everyone is different and they all have different ideas.

Lighting design may be one of the more challenging aspects of showing emotion. “Emotional lighting can be described as the potential of lighting being used to induce relaxation, motivation, and intimate atmosphere (“Emotional Lighting,” Right Light); it is simply lighting used to provoke emotions” (pages.uncc.edu). Lighting in theater has two purposes. The first is fairly obvious, make sure the actors and set pieces are seen when they need to be. The second is to make sure the lighting correctly sets the mood of the seen. You wouldn’t want to watch an intimate love scene being blasted with yellow light, right?

There are many similarities in the emotions that colors portray in theater to that of Plutchik’s color wheel. The biggest difference I’ve found through being around theater my whole life and doing my own research is the color red.

Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

For example, take the show Cabaret. It’s a show surrounded by a lot of sexuality and sex appeal. Instead of using the color red to show anger, like Plutchik’s color wheel shows, they use it to show sexuality, passion, and love. This is because red is a very emotionally intense color. It’s used to increase respiration rate and blood pressure. “Red light was reported to evoke higher cortical arousal measured by EEG than blue or green light” (Wilms, Oberfeld 897). Along with all of the scantily clad actors in Cabaret, the color red brings a large wave of emotion over any audience member.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

Now, let’s see the complete opposite. Next to Normal is a musical about depression and attempted suicide. The complete color shift between a show like this and Cabaret is incredibly noticeable. The cold blue of the light is extenuated by the grays of the costume. In this scene, the character Gabe, the long dead son, a figment of Diana’s imagination convinces her to commit suicide so the two can be together again. “In general to indicate ‘night scene’ blue light is used” (Basa). In this case the “night scene” is the depiction of Diana’s potential death. This interaction takes place during the song “There’s a World”. “Cold blues and grays can be used to instill melancholy or to soothe sadness” (lionhearttheatre.org/). In this scene, the combination of colors from the costumes and lights does just that.

Credit:Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Many times lighting can even be used to foreshadow something. Take Les Misérables for example. This is a snapshot of One Day More, one of the most iconic songs from Les Misérables . It’s a more serious song, but the color blue shows up. As mentioned before, blue is an indication of melancholy. One Day More isn’t a sad song. It’s a song that gets the blood pumping and hypes up the audience. It’s a show stopper. One Day More closes out the first act, and once the second act begins that’s when the trouble starts. Most of the characters shown don’t make it to the end. The color blue foreshadows their inevitable deaths throughout a very powerful and uplifting song.

You don’t just need lights surrounding the actors to convey emotion in theater. Using something called, a Gobo, lighting designers are able to add silhouettes to the lights, which adds a completely new dimension to just the lights. A gobo is a stencil carved into a metal plate.

Credit: https://www.stagelightingstore.com/diagonal-criss-crossed-lines-breakup-steel-gobos/27133-rosco-steel-gobo-rain-a

A great example of this is to use the Gobo for rain. Rain is already seen as something that conveys sadness and melancholy. If you combine that with a blue light the effect of the emotion can multiplied. Imagine it. Eponine from Les Misérables is singing “On My Own” beautifully. She’s truly emoting how alone she is how the man she loves doesn’t love her back. How does one increase the emotion output in this scene? Rain. Using actual water to depict rain is difficult and can cause electrical malfunctions as well as wardrobe malfunctions. The Gobo creates a perfect middle-ground where the emotion from the rain isn’t lost.

Credit: Les Misérables (2012)

As you can see in this screenshot from the movie, rain is actually being used during this scene. Unfortunately for the stage performers, they don’t have the luxury that screen actors have with effects like these.

Now, lighting isn’t the only way emotion is conveyed throughout theater. The choice of costumes plays a big role in how a character is viewed by the audience, and a lot of times it gives the audience a hint as to how that character will act.  For example, let’s look at Little Shop of Horrors.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

In the beginning, Seymour is wearing very ratty clothes and he looks like a mess, but the colors of his clothes, brown and blue, suggest stability and understanding. A little irony is thrown in there as well, since brown can also suggest masculinity. Seymour is not what one would call the stereotypical “masculine man”. All of this is seen in the opening number “Skidrow”. Seymour’s lines “Oh, I started life as an orphan. A child of the street. Here on skid row. He took me in [Mr. Mushnik], gave me shelter, a bed. Crust of bread and a job. Treats me like dirt, calls me a slob. Which I am” (Little Shop of Horrors). His life has a sense of stability. He works a dead-end job and though he hopes to move on to bigger and better things, he stays in the same place.

Now, once we get closer to the end of the show Seymour is wearing much more classy clothes. This shows his success from scene One to now.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

This is also seen through the color black, because black can signify elegance and prestige. On a darker note the colors of his clothes signify something completely different than from the first scene. Black and Gray signify fear and melancholy. Which is incredibly prevalent at the end of the show, where Seymour is in constant fear of Audrey 2 and doing whatever the plant asks of him. This is a complete 180 from the beginning of the show when he’s stable. His entire life is now in shambles and he doesn’t know what to do. Throughout Act Two, Seymour slowly starts to lose his mind (and everyone he loves).

The color of costumes can also be used to show one’s status. In revolutionary times, the color red was used to show royalty and a lot of shows that take place around that time period have adopted that color.

Credit: Hamilton

Take Hamilton for example. Jonathon Groff plays King George. The costume designers could have used any number of colors for the king to wear, but the chose red. Why? Well, it’s simple really. Not only did red signify royalty, but red also signifies power and passion. Power works well with King George because he was the ruler of the most powerful civilization at that time. Passion is shown through King George’s song, “You’ll be Back“. King George sings, “So don’t throw away this thing we had. Cuz when push comes to shove. I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love” (Hamilton). He threatens to kill friends and family to bring back America into his clutches. That’s incredibly passionate (albeit a little crazy as well).

Shying away from the design portion of theater. Probably the biggest way that emotion is conveyed in theater is through the actors. A simple facial expression doesn’t always work in showing emotion, as not everyone will have a front row seat. It’s a little different than film in that aspect. In film, you can get a close-up of a character and see the emotion on their face. In theater, the act of showing emotion may have to be very exaggerated, depending on the size of the theater.

Credit: https://www.slashfilm.com/mother-honest-trailer/

Take this screenshot of Jennifer Lawrence from Mother! for example. This is something that is impossible for an audience watching a play to be able to see. You can clearly see that Lawrence is shocked and scared. Facial expressions are pivotal in film, but they take a backseat to more exaggerated motions in theater.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

This is another scene from Next Normal. The father, Dan, and the dead son, Gabe are both singing at Diana, trying to get her to pay attention them. The actress could have easily just made a face to portray frustration, but the hand over her ear makes it easier for the audience to grasp what’s she’s actually going through. Dan and Gabe act as the voices in her hand and she’s fighting them off in order to have her own voice heard.

This doesn’t mean that facial expressions aren’t needed in theater. They are still needed, and still play an important role at showing emotion to the audience. Who wants to watch an actor sing and dance around the stage while they have a deadpan look at their face? Actors need a perfect balance in facial expressions and motions in order to create the perfect emotion.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

Here’s another scene from Next to Normal. This is one of the most emotional scenes from the show, “I am the One (Reprise)“. Diana has just left Dan, in order for herself to get better. Dan is completely heartbroken and can’t believe she would leave after all he’s done for her. He starts singing “I am the one who loved you. I am the one who stayed. I am the one and you walked away” (Next to Normal). Gabe cannot believe that his father is saying this as he’s pushed Gabe’s memory away for years as he responds with, “I know you told her [Diana] that I’m not worth a damn. But I know you know who I am” (Next to Normal).

Finally, Dan acknowledges Gabe, his son, after trying to push his memory away. In Quinnipiac University’s performance both actors could be seen crying each and every performance. It was incredibly prevalent in their final performance together. What should be known is that the final performance of Next to Normal was also both actor’s final shows at Quinnipiac University. Their emotion got the best of them and they both broke down in the waning moments of the song. So much, in fact, Gabe couldn’t finishing singing the final line of the song. Using one’s own feelings is another powerful way to convey emotions. “At the same time, actors’ portrayals can be strongly influenced by subjective feelings, especially when produced via techniques based on emotional imagination or memory” (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). Not everyone can cry on command, so using a past memory or feeling can make someone get into that mindset. It may not be crying, but slumped shoulders, arched back, head down, all indicate that someone is upset.

In order for an actor to grab the audience’s attention the emotion they convey has to be perfect. People zone out sometimes, but “If you think a little deeper, you’ll realize that in those moments what makes you stop, think, and engage is oftentimes some kind of content that provides a more visceral experience” (actiongraphicsnj.com). Moments like watching both actors break down on stage, pull you into the action, which is why at this moment the only thing that could be heard was crying and sniffles from the audience.

Unfortunately, a lot of times actors try and take these moments too far. You don’t want to play for the laugh. “Actors who set themselves up for a laugh, or pre-empt a joke, are often detrimental to other actors on stage, and themselves” (stagemilk.com). Essentially what this means is, if you received a laugh on your opening performance, you may try to get a bigger laugh the next night and overdo it. Most of the times this happens, the reaction isn’t laughter. This also works with sadness, like in Next to Normal. Every actor in the show knew how depressing and upsetting the show was, but every night they didn’t try and force the audience to cry. They played truth. It’s a lot like manipulating photos using photoshop. “The public has lost trust in the media. We have to be ambassadors of the truth, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard because the public no longer trusts the media” (lens.blogs.nytimes.com). If an actor stops playing the truth, the audience will lose trust in them.

So far we’ve covered, lighting, costumes, and actors. The final way that emotion is conveyed in theater is through staging. This is where the director comes in.

Credit: Quinnipiac University

Let’s take a look at another scene from Next to Normal. This is a perfectly staged shot that can indicate to anyone looking at this picture what’s going on. It’s a classic example of one of Gestalt’s principles, proximity. Dan and Diana are next to each other, seemingly the couple in this photo. While Gabe looks at them longingly, just hoping to be acknowledged. In the scene itself, Dan is talking to Diana about receiving ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) to help her delusional episodes about seeing her dead son. Gabe, not wanting to be forgotten is trying to fight back, but at this point in the scene he’s too late and has given up. All he can do is hope his mother doesn’t take the therapy so he won’t be forgotten.

A lot of staging in theater is surrounded by the Gestalt principle. Similarity, enclosure, continuation, closure, proximity, figure-ground are all used when staging a show.

Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBEKB5Pid4g

Take West Side Story for example. The song Quintet (Tonight) is a perfect example of similarity. There are five groups in the song (from left to right): Anita, the Sharks, Tony, the Jets, and Maria. The Jets are paired together because they are all part of the same group, same with the Sharks. Anita is next to the Sharks as she is dating the leader of the group, Bernardo. Tony is next to the Jets as he was once a member and is best friends with the leader of the group, Riff.

Enclosure can be shown through the set design of a show and how the director creates the stage around it. The set could consist of a house and outside the house is a street. All the actors inside of the house would be grouped as living inside the house, while everything outside the house would be grouped together there.

Credit: Les Misérables

Continuation can be seen here as all of the actors are staged so the audience’s eyes keep going back and they continue to see a group of people all fighting for the same cause. Figure-ground can also be seen in this scene from Les Misérables. “The figure-ground principle helps to explain which element in a design will immediately be perceived as the figure and which will be perceived as the ground” (canva.com). The figure immediately being perceived is Enjolras, the leader of the rebellion. The flag in the background is seen as the ground, along with the members of the rebellion further away from Enjolras.

There are many ways emotions can be shown in theater, but the only way to properly show them off is through every part working in tandem. Costumes, lighting, acting, staging. Everything needs to work hand-in-hand to get the proper effect.

References

Admin. “4 Powers of Lightning in Theatre.” Lionheart Theatre, 3 Aug. 2015, https://lionhearttheatre.org/4-powers-of-lightning-in-theatre__trashed/.

Basa, Murali. “Role of Lighting in Creating Mood and Emotion.” Academia.edu, https://www.academia.edu/390533/Role_of_Lighting_in_creating_mood_and_emotion.

Bonner, Carolann. “Using Gestalt Principles for Natural Interactions.” Thoughtbot, https://thoughtbot.com/blog/gestalt-principles. (Module 2)

Busche, Laura. “Simplicity, Symmetry and More: Gestalt Theory and the Design Principles It Gave Birth To.” Learn, Canva, 15 May 2019, https://www.canva.com/learn/gestalt-theory/. (Module 2)

Carter, William. “Emotion Through Theatrical Lighting.” Visual Rhetoric Emotion Through Theatrical Lighting Comments, 2014, https://pages.uncc.edu/visualrhetoric/projects/individual-projects/emotion-through-theatrical-lighting/.

Harwood, Jim, et al. “Don’t Play for Laughs: Acting Tip.” StageMilk, 24 Nov. 2014, https://www.stagemilk.com/dont-play-laughs/.

Jürgens, Rebecca, et al. “Effect of Acting Experience on Emotion Expression and Recognition in Voice: Non-Actors Provide Better Stimuli than Expected.” Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, vol. 39, no. 3, 2015, pp. 195–214., doi:10.1007/s10919-015-0209-5.

Klanten, Robert, and Andrew Losowsky. Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language. Gestalten-Verl., 2012.Liron, Yuvalal, et al. “Dramatic Action: A Theater-Based Paradigm for Analyzing Human Interactions.” Plos One, vol. 13, no. 3, Aug. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0193404. (Module 1)

Lupton, Ellen. Design Is Storytelling. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2017. (Module 2)

Mcleod, Saul. “Visual Perception Theory.” Visual Perception | Simply Psychology, 2018, https://www.simplypsychology.org/perception-theories.html. (Module 2)

The New York Times. “Staging, Manipulation and Truth in Photography.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2015, https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/staging-manipulation-ethics-photos/. (Moduel 7)

“The Psychology of Color: A Designer’s Guide to Color Association & Meaning.” ZevenDesign, 12 Oct. 2018, https://zevendesign.com/color-association/#black.

Wagemans, Johan, et al. “A Century of Gestalt Psychology in Visual Perception: I. Perceptual Grouping and Figure-Ground Organization.” Psychological Bulletin, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482144/. (Module 2)

Wilms, Lisa, and Daniel Oberfeld. “Color and Emotion: Effects of Hue, Saturation, and Brightness.” Psychological Research, vol. 82, no. 5, 2017, pp. 896–914., doi:10.1007/s00426-017-0880-8.

“Worth 1,000 Words: The 4 Principles of Visual Storytelling.” Action Graphics, 26 July 2018, https://actiongraphicsnj.com/blog/4-principles-visual-storytelling/. (Module 2)

Posted in Visual Storytelling

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Credit: Forbes.com

Pollution has been a problem for the Earth for hundreds of years. Garbage would be left out in the street, with rarely anything cleaning up (save for a Good Samaritan or the street cleaners). Pollution is only even more prevalent today. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now more than 600,000 square miles in size. For reference, Alaska is approximately 663,268 square miles in size. Now this isn’t just one garbage patch, there are multiple ones that float throughout the Pacific Ocean. Luckily that means we don’t have one garbage patch the size of Alaska floating around the ocean, but we do have two patches that could each roughly be half the size of Alaska. That’s still not good and something has to be done. Luckily for us the cleanup is finally underway.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

This is a map of both great garbage patches, and the routes they take around the ocean. It’s a very educational image. It doesn’t so much grab the viewer’s attention right away, but it educates them. It’s a great example of science visualization. “Science Visualization helps scientists overcome communications barriers through visual storytelling” (http://sciencevisualization.com). An image like this makes it much easier to convey where each garbage patch is in relation to the land and the other patch.

https://response.restoration.noaa.gov/about/media/how-big-great-pacific-garbage-patch-science-vs-myth.html

Here we see the effects of the pollution from the great pacific garbage patch. Many animals, not just birds suffer from ingesting the garbage we throw out. This picture gives the viewer a visceral response. “From the user’s point of view, Visceral responses involve an automatic evaluation of the perceptual properties of objects, and a quick classification of them as safe or dangerous, good or bad, cold and forbidding or warm and inviting” (Norman). We get an automatic response when we look at this. It’s a cruel image seeing all of our garbage inside of a poor animal, but it grabs attention. It does its job. Draw the attention of the viewer, let them notice how bad this picture is so they read the article and get educated on the pollution problem.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-cleanup-underway/3854722002/

Above is an aerial view of the garbage patch. It’s disgusting that so much of this has been thrown into the ocean and this image is only a miniscule amount of it. I think this image is a strong piece visual to show the horrors of the great pacific garbage patches, because it shows a diverse group of garbage. It’s not just plastic or paper. “A diversity of visual elements enhances the appeal of science communication to a wide audience” (ian.umces.edu). A lot of that isn’t just garbage from our trash cans. It’s garbage dumped off boats and garbage that hasn’t been recycled properly.

https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/ocean-cleanup-working?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

What we see here is the start of the cleanup. “‘The cleanup system includes a barrier that holds a 10-foot screen below it to catch plastics without interfering with marine life’, The Guardian reported. ‘The self-contained system uses natural currents of the sea to passively collect plastic debris in an effort to reduce waste in the ocean.’” (usatoday.com). This image gives us an idea as to how the cleanup will work. Connected with the image above a viewer, without any scientific background, can have an understanding as to how the cleanup process will work. “Visual imagery can say so much more than words alone…” (skyword.com).

https://theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

This final image gives us the human element. All of the other images above have not had a human touch in it (besides all the garbage). Here we can clearly see that scientists and workers are doing something about the problem. It’s not just a boat and it’s not just talk. We can see them actively doing something about the problem. “The best way to achieve identification is to get your target audience to take the pictures themselves and submit them to your site, so you can display your customers’ images alongside your own” (yotpo.com). We’re all humans on the same planet. Most of us know the environment is in trouble and that we need to do something about it. We can all identify with these people who did take that step. They are out there actively trying to make the world a healthier place. “All stories operate on two levels – these are the action level and the narrative level. The action level (the formal system) describes what happens and the narrative level (the stylistic system) how it happens” (Bergstrom 16). If we take a closer look at this image we can see both levels of the story. The action level is the men on the boat are participating in the cleanup. The narrative level is they are using a special kind of net to drag all the garbage towards them.

All of these images work in tandem to show a story, but they all have their own stories to tell. They tell the story of how we need to be more proactive in protecting our environment.

References

Bergström Bo. Essentials of Visual Communication. Laurence King, 2009.“

How the Travel Industry Is Using Visual Storytelling to Bring Its Economic Impact into Clear View.” The Content Standard by Skyword, 15 Oct. 2019,

https://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/creativity/how-the-travel-industry-is-using-visual-storytelling-to-bring-its-economic-impact-into-clear-view/.Jones, Adrian. Practical Visual Literacy for Science Communication ” IAN/EcoCheck Blog,

https://ian.umces.edu/blog/2017/03/28/practical-visual-literacy-for-science-communication/.Science Visualization, http://sciencevisualization.com/.Zen, Pola.

http://projectsfinal.interactionivrea.org/2004-2005/SYMPOSIUM%202005/communication%20material/DESIGNERS%20AND%20USERS_Norman.pdf

“Storytelling Secrets For Creating Images That Connect.” Yotpo, 22 July 2019, https://www.yotpo.com/blog/5-visual-storytelling-secrets-to-improve-your-marketing-images/.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

Photo Manipulation is a Big Problem

            The greatest sin in visual storytelling is manipulating photos, or in a lot of cases using Photoshop to make the viewer see something you want them to see instead of the truth. When a corporation or a person is found out to be manipulating their photo it damages their credibility. For example, National Geographic did this one time with the Pyramids of Giza, where “The horizontal image was altered to fit the vertical cover, shifting the two pyramids closer together. When the issue was publicly released, the photographer, Gordon Gahan, saw the cover and complained” (alteredimagesbdc.org ). This really damaged the credibility of National Geographic and the Director of Photography, Tom Kennedy had to come out and say, “We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn’t repeat that mistake today” (alteredimagesbdc.org ).

            Photo manipulation completely changes the way people view the world or incidents. One of the best example of how photos can be manipulated to serve a persons’ or corporation’s agenda is this photo here:

http://toinformistoinfluence.com/2012/06/15/images-a-matter-of-perspective

            There are three different ways this photo can be viewed. The middle way is just the original photo. You have multiple soldiers around an enemy, taking care of him, but also on guard (hence the gun). The far left way, which cuts off the soldier giving the enemy water. It just looks like he’s a prisoner of war and the solider holding the gun is about to shoot him. The far right way shows a soldier giving water to an enemy. There are two sides to every coin.

            Other than what the media can do manipulate someone’s viewpoint, photoshopping has become a big problem in the beauty world. Models are already viewed as beautiful, but the way that their agencies and editors take to their photos is disgusting. It completely changes the “ideal” look. No one can have wrinkles. That’s considered unattractive because none of the models or celebrities in the magazines have them. It’s all Photoshop. It puts a huge burden on the younger generation, because now that’s their ideal beauty. “Many of us fall victim to unattainable beauty desires—even if deep down we know computer-generated perfection will never be within grasp” (beautylish.com). This “beauty” is something no one can attain because it’s all computer generated.

References

Clair, Stella Rose Saint. “The Photoshop Controversy: Does Photo Editing Alter Our Perceptions Of Beauty?” Beautylish, 30 Oct. 2013, http://www.beautylish.com/a/vxgms/airbrushing-photographs-controversy.

Harding, Joel. “Images: A Matter of Perspective.” To Inform Is to Influence, 15 June 2012, toinformistoinfluence.com/2012/06/15/images-a-matter-of-perspective/.

“National Geographic.” ALTERED IMAGES, http://www.alteredimagesbdc.org/national-geographic/.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

How to visualize data

Like my other post this week, I attempted to create my own images to show something off. My first post was about telling a story about the United States, this post is about showing data (data visualization). “Data visualization is the graphical representation of information and data. By using visual elements like charts, graphs, and maps, data visualization tools provide an accessible way to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data” (https://www.tableau.com). The clearer you make the data the easier it is for people to understand what you’re trying to convey.

I chose to do Boston sports championships. Now, I’m not a Boston sports fan. Not in the slightest, but they have won the most championships in recent memory, which gives me the most data to work with. Luckily my girlfriend’s roommate is a big Boston fan so when I visited her this past weekend I was able to take pictures of each pennant she had hanging on the wall. Since I was doing chronological data I used a vertical chart as my form of data visualization. “Vertical (column chart) is best used for chronological data (time-series should always run left to right), or when visualizing negative values below the x-axis” (https://cdn2.hubspot.net). I wasn’t using a time-series, but my data is chronological, labeling each championship each team had won. If I were to do this again I would try a line graph starting from the first championship a Boston team won and show the distances between championships.

References

“Data Visualization Beginner’s Guide: a Definition, Examples, and Learning Resources.” Tableau Software, https://www.tableau.com/learn/articles/data-visualization.

Hubspot, Visage. “Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts and Graphs”. PDF file.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

The United States: Represented as…

This week I decided to try my hand at telling my own story through visualization. I decided to tell a story about the United States. Now, I won’t tell you what this story actually is… Yet. I’m leaving it up to you to figure out what story I’m telling about the United States and next week I will reveal what that story is. Is there a prize for guessing correctly? The prize is knowing that we think the same! (So maybe not the best prize, but it is what is).

Posted in Visual Storytelling

Multiple Emotions in Pictures

            It’s easy to look at tell the main emotion in a picture. For example, if someone is screaming and the color of the picture is red you would be able to tell that the picture is about anger or rage, but there can still be another underlying emotion to it. That could be either based off of the color of the picture or the actual emotion being shown (like screaming). The way that we view these visual elements are called the Gestalt Principles. The Gestalt Principles are “rules that describe how the human eye perceives visual elements” (https://www.interaction-design.org).

https://www.artranked.com/search?q=anger#&gid=1&pid=24

The initial viewing of this painting makes it look like anger. The character painted is red (according to Plutchik’s color wheel red’s emotion equivalent is anger) and is raising a fist to what I can only assume is to punch someone. The underlying emotion that I can see is sadness. There’s just a little bit of blue (blue’s emotion equivalent is sadness, according to Plutchik’s color wheel). The blue color of the character’s sleeve isn’t what gives the underlying tone of sadness. If you look at the eyes of the character the tear ducts seem to be swollen, making it seem like the character is crying or about to cry. Could they be in a fight with someone who hurt their feelings? Maybe the antagonist (unseen) of this portrait hurt a loved one of the subject of the painting. Another emotional pairing that can be seen is anger and anticipation (anticipation’s color equivalent is orange). “Anger + Anticipation = Aggressiveness (with its opposite being awe)” (https://www.interaction-design.org). The protagonist is clearly being very aggressive, seeming as if to initiate a fight. The colors also work very well together (red and orange). There is also a hint of green in the bottom of the painting which brings a hint of fear to the painting. Could the subject of the painting be fighting for their life? There are many moving parts in this painting: fear, anger, sadness, anticipation. All of which cannot be seen at the initial viewing of the painting.

https://www.artranked.com/search?q=rage#&gid=1&pid=15

This is my favorite painting that I found while searching for images that conveyed emotions. It’s entirely different from the normal Plutchik color wheel. A majority of the painting is blue which would translate to sadness, but the face of Poseidon shows pure rage. It’s very much as if the ocean is in anguish. It’s a tsunami of pain and anguish crashing down on the culprits of the pain (most likely humankind). It’s the complete opposite definition of blue according to https://thenextweb.com. “Like yellow, blue’s meaning varies greatly depending on the shade. All blues are universally relaxing and safe, but the lighter shades will seem more friendly while the darker ones seem more somber” (https://thenextweb.com). Every shade of blue is shown in this painting but none of those shades seem friendly or safe. The main emotion being shown in the painting is anger, followed by a sense of grief and sadness. Poseidon is grieving over the pollution that humans are pumping into the ocean. At the same time, he is enraged by that fact and the two emotions work hand-in-hand to provide this amazing image. 

It amazes me how so much emotion can be conveyed in one singular painting. In the first painting, four emotions can be seen all working in tandem with the overlying tone of anger. There aren’t as many emotions being shown in the second painting but two different shades of the same emotion are shown (sadness and grief), along with rage. They work very well together. Plutchik doesn’t have grief and rage together as acceptable combinations, but this is where we can criticize the color wheel. “It is also often felt that the model is too simplistic and that there are greater emotional nuances not captured within it” (www.interaction-design.org). There are so many more emotional pairings and nuances that can be shown through a multitude of colors that the color wheel doesn’t mention. One of the biggest ones would be the anger color tree and the sadness color tree. A lot of the times they work hand-in-hand in real life, so why not in images?

References

Cao, Jerry. “Web Design Color Theory: How to Create the Right Emotions with Color in Web Design.” The Next Web, 11 June 2018, https://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/04/07/how-to-create-the-right-emotions-with-color-in-web-design/.

“Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.” The Interaction Design Foundation, https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/putting-some-emotion-into-your-design-plutchik-s-wheel-of-emotions.

“What Are Gestalt Principles?” The Interaction Design Foundation, https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/gestalt-principles.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

Emotions in Images

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/putting-some-emotion-into-your-design-plutchik-s-wheel-of-emotions

Color plays a pivotal role in being able to show emotions with a picture. “Combining color and emotion is a powerful storytelling tool. Color creates a sensory impression that reflects mood and emotion” (104, Lupton). I searched through many different paintings and many different movie posters to ones that I thought conveyed the color range of red on the Plutchik’s color wheel. Red portrays annoyance at its lightest stage, anger at its middle stage, and rage at its darkest stage. The first picture is the movie poster from Dinner for Schmuck’s, a comedy starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell. Having seen the movie myself I already know how it conveys annoyance, but I will be only using the actual poster (and none of the scenes) to talk about the emotion. My second picture is a painting that conveys anger. The third image is a painting by Saryth on dA that conveys rage.

imdb.com/title/tt0427152/

Dinner for Schmuck’s is a comedy that stars Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell. The movie poster describes the relationship between the two very well. Paul Rudd looks incredibly annoyed at Steve Carrell. While Steve Carrell just looks happy to be there and won’t stop holding onto Paul Rudd. The Gestalt principles of perception [“the brain converts a flood of data about color, tone, shape, movement, and orientation into distinct objects. These useful chinks of information are called percepts” (126, Lupton).] aren’t too noticeable here. The biggest one that I see is Similarity (which is when elements with the same color or shape are in a group). Steve Carrell is wearing a lot of blue and lighter colors and they are grouped together showing that he’s brighter. Paul Rudd is wearing black and darker colors showing that he’s more dark and not as bright and chipper as Carrell. Normally, to show annoyance there would be a hint of red in the image, but not in this case. The annoyance is seen on Rudd’s face. The hand on his forehead that is the all-too-known “facepalm” gesture, which most people know to be a sign of annoyance. Someone is just being so annoying that you (since you can’t slap them) you slap your forehead, or even just rub your forehead because you can’t fathom someone being this annoying or stupid.

https://www.artranked.com/search?q=anger#&gid=1&pid=7

This painting is a lot more straightforward than the Dinner for Schmuck’s movie poster. It abuses the color red and uses it very well to depict anger. It does a very good job at adding the human element to it. Now, you may be asking yourself how this painting has the human element. Well, it follows three simple steps. The first step would be the basic image. The basic image in this case would be just the boy being very mad. The second step is adding a human touch, which would be the person that the boy is angry at. The third and final step is adding the human trace. If you look very closely at the image you can see blood spattered on his cheek. That would be the human trace, literally and figuratively. It’s the trace left behind of the person he attacked in anger, it’s also what adds the story to this image. Not only do we know that he’s angry, but we also know that he did something about it. The image also does a great job at following the Gestalt principle, Enclosure, “Things that appear to have a boundary around them are perceived to be grouped, and therefore related” (Bonner). There’s a thin white line surrounding the boy in the picture which groups together the boy and the color red and separates it from the background. Along with Enclosure, the image also does a great job at Figure/Ground Ambiguity, “Perceiving certain objects as being in the foreground and other objects as being in the background” (Bonner). The blackness is clearly the background in the image and that can be seen because of the white boundary surrounding the subject.

https://www.artranked.com/search?q=anger#&gid=1&pid=35

I really like this painting because it has so many different stages to it. You have the battered warrior with a multitude of scars across his chest. He’s holding a wicked looking sword that’s gleaming in the light. That’s not even mentioning his eyes. His eyes exude pure rage. Which is the reason I picked this painting to showcase rage. He has no pupils, no iris. His eyes are just pure red. They almost look as if they’re just balls of fire that could destroy anything with just a glance. The area around him is smoking and looks like it’s rundown, possibly from a battle he just finished (and clearly won). This image does a great job of showing the Gestalt principle, Proximity, “closely spaces elements form groups” (128, Lupton). The stairs that rise up to what you can’t see is its own group. The ambiguous object next to the warrior is its own group. The entryway in the corner is its own group. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the warrior. He’s in his own group as well. He’s separated from the background (Figure/Ground Ambiguity) by a thin white line (Enclosure). Now the figure isn’t really red, other than his eyes. The entire area around him is red. This could mean that the area he just fought in has rage towards him for destroying a once beautiful area. They’re the same shade of red as his eyes. His eyes hate that area as much as the area hates him. Perhaps it was once a home that casted him out as a child, and he has now come back to enact his revenge?

References

Bonner, Carolann. “Using Gestalt Principles for Natural Interactions.” Thoughtbot, 15 Sept. 2014, https://thoughtbot.com/blog/gestalt-principles.

Cohen, Micah. “How To Master Visual Storytelling with Emotional Pictures.” Insights.twenty20.Com, http://insights.twenty20.com/how-to-master-visual-storytelling-with-emotional-pictures.

Lupton, Ellen. Design Is Storytelling. Cooper Hewitt, 2017.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

Pictures that tell a Story

There are so many pictures out there that tell amazing stories. A quick google search of it and you’ll find hundreds, maybe even thousands (if you dig long enough). Many of these aren’t even staged. The power that one image can have is incredible. Some can even change the world. Here are ten images that I think tell stories very well (many of these wouldn’t have the power to change the world).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxF7DLpVwkQ

Buzzer beaters are some of the most iconic moments in sports history. Whether you’re a fan of the team or not, you can always respect an amazing buzzer beater (unless it was used to beat your team). This photo has many layers to the celebration that is occurring. You can see Lebron James cheering as he made the final shot, and one of his teammates coming over to celebrate with him. You see the red lining around the backboard meaning that the shot was good. Then, of course, you have the crowd. Every arm is up and cheering as the leader of their team just won them the game. This fits the classic example of Archetype, one of the four pillars of visual storytelling. The main focus is of course, the hero, Lebron James. But with all the moving parts surrounding him in this photo is does a great job of actually telling you what just happened.

https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/hammond/sold-off-siblings-shown-in-old-photo-tell-their-stories/article_1c095598-89f4-584b-891b-7ef48a1e2082.html

This photo disturbed me when I first saw and I immediately clicked on. “Children for sale”? That can’t possibly be true. That’s the point of photos like this though. It’s to grab the attention of the viewer. “The capture of visually interesting content is at the foundation of visual storytelling” (2 Gitner). This photo is probably one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. It grabs your attention the second you see it. You want more. You want to know what’s happening with these four children.

https://www.jotform.com/blog/35-powerful-photos-that-each-tells-a-story/

Right off the bat I’m hooked. Garbage cans burning. A masked man flipping the bird. What more could someone want for a story. Why is any of this happening? It’s clearly a riot happening, but why is it happening. Is the masked man an upset sanitation expert and he’s burning garbage cans as a protest? Or is it something much bigger? This is a great example of dramaturgy. “Telling a story so captivatingly that the audience have to the story right to the end” (27 Bergström). 

https://culturacolectiva.com/music/songs-that-tell-stories

This is my favorite photo that I’ve found, because I relate heavily to it. Which is one of the four pillars of visual storytelling, Relevance. I’ve done this a bunch with my girlfriend. We’ll be sitting down together, I’ll either have my guitar or ukulele out and we’ll be singing together. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite look like this couple is entirely “in love”. The girl doesn’t seem to be smiling while the guy is playing. Maybe they’re going through a tough time and he’s trying to make her feel better with music?

https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/facepalm

We all have those moments where we either do something incredibly stupid or our friends do something incredibly stupid. If we did it, we just facepalm ourselves thinking, “how could I be this dumb”. If your friend did it, you look at them and just think (while laughing) “why am I friends with you”. From my memory (I only watched Star Trek with my dad), Captain Picard doesn’t normally get too frustrated, so something very frustrating must have happened to him before this happened.

https://aminoapps.com/c/horror/page/blog/the-lovers-of-pompeii/QKdF_XulvKKWRYgMvMDZDpBJaxmZRLV

I’ve always found Pompeii extremely interesting, ever since I was a child. The lovers of Pompeii is, by far, the most interesting thing that was discovered at the runes of Pompeii. They’re called lovers, but we never know for sure. It could be two friends that were holding each other before the inevitable happened. There’s a theory that these two people could have been gay lovers. Which adds even more mystery behind all of this. There’s also not just one discovery of people hugging, but multiple ones.

https://www.jotform.com/blog/35-powerful-photos-that-each-tells-a-story/

As I had mentioned in my previous post, scars tell the most interesting stories. Was this man abused or tortured? Was he attacked and mauled by an animal? If so, what type of animal? The possibilities aren’t endless, but you won’t know how scars like that happened unless you do more research. Knowing that, this picture did its job.

https://www.jotform.com/blog/35-powerful-photos-that-each-tells-a-story/

This picture is scary. I don’t quite know what time period it was taken in, but a child smoking is never something good. Now, this could be a posed picture to get a certain effect (which it clearly did), but unfortunately it could also be a real photo. It’s almost as if the two girls in the shot are out of work on a smoke break. Enjoying the little freedom they have before they have to begin working again.

https://www.scmp.com/sport/article/3009977/2019-nba-playoffs-where-does-kawhi-leonards-epic-buzzer-beater-rank-all-time

This was probably the greatest picture taken of the 2018-2019 NBA season. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, Kawhi Leonard hits the game winning shot as he falls back off his back foot. So much in this picture is happening, but everything happening revolves around one thing. “Is it going in?” Joel Embiid watches helplessly as the ball sores through the air. Kawhi Leonard is watching, praying hoping the ball gets the right bounce and falls in. Kawhi’s teammates watching, hyping him up as they believe the shot will go in.

https://www.schertzanimalhospital.com/blog/pet-ownership-101-10-things-every-first-time-dog-owner-know/

Now who doesn’t love dogs? They’re some of the most lovable creatures on the planet. A smiling dog tells some of the best stories. Did the dog and its owner get back from a walk? Maybe they were playing fetch or running around at the park for a while? Maybe the dog is just happy getting a hug from its owner? I know my dogs always love getting hugs. Since most of the people I’ve met are dog lovers I’d say this picture is very relevant to them. A smiling dog always seems to make me happy.

References

Bergström Bo. Essentials of Visual Communication, pages 14-27. Laurence King, 2009.

DeMeré, Nichole Elizabeth. “The Power of Visual Storytelling: 15 Stunning Examples to Inspire You.” HubSpot Blog, HubSpot, 11 May 2016, https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-storytelling-examples.

McKenna, Josephine. “Embracing Figures at Pompeii ‘Could Have Been Gay Lovers’, after Scan Reveals They Are Both Men.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 7 Apr. 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/07/embracing-figures-pompeii-could-have-gay-lovers-scan-reveals/.

Proceedings of NAACL-HLT 2016, pages 1233–1239, San Diego, California, June 12-17, 2016. c 2016 Association for Computational Linguistics

Gitner, Seth. Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World. Routledge, 2015.

“Worth 1,000 Words: The 4 Principles of Visual Storytelling.” Action Graphics, 26 July 2018, https://actiongraphicsnj.com/blog/4-principles-visual-storytelling/.

Posted in Visual Storytelling

Telling a Story

I’ve always been very good at telling stories through words. It’s what I love to do and what I would like to be my career path. This time I decided to stray out of my comfort zone and try and create a story using only a picture. Visual storytelling is passing on a lot of information through a simple visual aid. It’s used a lot to market ideas and products. Which is very important for me right now as I’m trying to get a business up and running. I decided to tackle visual storytelling by simply using the camera on my phone to capture a few pictures that I took while celebrating the long weekend. To me, each picture revolves around the same type of story, relaxation, but each picture has its own story to tell.

Nice day by the pool

This first picture describes summer very well. To me, corona is the epitome of the relaxing beer that one drinks while lounging by a pool. One of the four main pillars of visual storytelling is authenticity. For a picture to tell a story it needs to feel real. Drinking a beer beside a pool is definitely a very authentic feeling, that I think most people (21 and above) can relate too.  

Sparkling water

Rippling water. The wind blowing softly across the top. The sun glaring off the surface. A lone leaf floating with the current. Making someone feel something through your picture as one of the major objectives of visual storytelling. In this day-and-age, most people just scroll through their feeds aimlessly. Not really looking at the pictures, but if you have something that can grab their attention, you have succeeded in telling your story. This picture really shows off how making someone feel something. There’s very little in the picture but at the same time there are many moving parts. I feel completely at peace while looking at this photo. There’s something about a rippling current that can do that for people.

Breaking through the trees

Like the picture above this one, it makes you feel something. Looking up to the sky as a pop fly is hit at your little league baseball/softball game. You lose it for a few seconds in the glare from the sun. Laying in the grass with a friend just looking up at the sky, the sun sneaking its way in past the shade. While looking at this picture you can see both levels that visual storytelling operates on: the action level and the narrative level. The audience sees the setting (outside), props (mailbox in the shade, a home), time (afternoon), and the person in it (who isn’t seen) is you, the viewer.

Hurry before it melts

I’m sure everyone can relate to getting some ice cream with a friend on a hot summer day. Trying to finish it before the heat melts it away. Since it’s the end of the summer and many people either just started school or are starting school this upcoming week, makes this photo incredibly relevant. Relevancy just so happens to be another pillar of visual storytelling. Relevancy is also the most important part element of any story. If something isn’t relevant what would make someone want to view it? This picture could be a great selling point for this little ice cream shop, as not only the ice cream looks delicious (it was), it also shows a homey environment.  

Oops

Now going off of relevancy, I’m sure most people who drive or have driven all have that “oops” moment or “how did that happen” moment. I’ve been driving this car for over four years, and I could not tell you how this crack in my car happened. It tells a great story though. Where did I go that could have caused that? Was I in an accident? Was I not paying attention and clipped the curb? Scars tell the most interesting stories. Not just on people. Scars on anything really. If you’re walking through the woods and see claw marks on a tree or a rock. You’re going to wonder how that got there.

References

Bergström Bo. Essentials of Visual Communication, pages 14-27. Laurence King, 2009.

DeMeré, Nichole Elizabeth. “The Power of Visual Storytelling: 15 Stunning Examples to Inspire You.” HubSpot Blog, HubSpot, 11 May 2016, https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/visual-storytelling-examples.

Proceedings of NAACL-HLT 2016, pages 1233–1239, San Diego, California, June 12-17, 2016. c 2016 Association for Computational Linguistics

“Worth 1,000 Words: The 4 Principles of Visual Storytelling.” Action Graphics, 26 July 2018, https://actiongraphicsnj.com/blog/4-principles-visual-storytelling/.