Nowadays, it became a commonplace practice among social scientists to refer to the concept of culture as a perceptional matrix, through which individuals assess the qualitative essence of surrounding realities. In its turn, this implies that people affiliated with a particular national culture are very likely to exhibit similar cognitive and perceptional patterns: “National culture is… both an inter-generational repository and heritage, or set of traditions… that serve to unite a group of people with shared experiences and memories and differentiate them from outsiders” (Smith 187).
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Thus, it does not come as a particular surprise that, as of today, the analysis of what accounts for the particulars of people’s culturally defined cognitive and perceptional modes had become an integral part of marketing. Given the fact that the world’s markets grow increasingly globalized; it makes perfectly logical sense for entrepreneurs to pay progressively more attention to how the specifics of consumers’ cultural makeup affect their purchasing choices. The validity of an earlier articulated thesis as to the fact that one’s cultural affiliation has a profound effect on how she or he perceives surrounding reality can be well illustrated in regards to the process of designing advertisement posters.
After having observed a great number of such posters, I came to realize that, even though many of them are being concerned with promoting essentially the same commercial goods (e.g. alcohol beverages), the actual techniques of how posters’ designers went about making an advertized product particularly appealing to the targeted audience, differed rather substantially. In its turn, this prompted me to consider that it was named on account of the specifics of designers’ association with different national cultures, and also on the account of their awareness of what defines culturally predetermined workings of audience’s collective psyche, that advertisement images meant to promote essentially the same product, appeared to convey qualitatively different semiotics.
The recognition of this fact provided additional stimulus for me to become engaged in researching how culture can serve as an informational medium, as there were good reasons for me to believe that my increased awareness of what represents the objective subtleties of a researched phenomena would greatly enhance my professional adequacy as a designer. I focused specifically on studying the representational techniques, deployed by designers of advertisement posters (concerned with promoting alcoholic beverages) from South Korea and Switzerland.
The first study began by examining how Swiss and Korean cultures represented the tone of language/text that was utilized in posters, the relationship between the main object, field information and 2–Dimensional space. As my research progressed, I realized that; whereas people from Switzerland wanted to see the reality, people from South Korea wanted to be the reality. Such my realization correlates rather well with Bower’s (2000) observation of the fact that there is a metaphysical difference between the modes of how Westerners and Orientals indulge in cognitive process while reflecting upon the surrounding reality: “In a variety of reasoning tasks, East Asians take a ‘holistic’ approach.
They make little use of categories and formal logic and instead focus on relations among objects and the context in which they interact… (Westerners) on the other hand, adopt an ‘analytic’ perspective. They look for the traits of objects while largely ignoring their context” (57). I concluded that posters from South Korea are being suggestive of the fact that people about Oriental culture are more likely to find a particular poster appealing if an advertised beverage is being presented in a highly sociable context, such as individuals partying, for example. Westerners, on another hand, are more likely to find an advertised beverage appealing when it is being presented in a context-ignorant manner – in most Swiss posters; the images of beverages are placed in the very center, with contextual backgrounds playing only supportive role in increasing the extent of drinks’ actual appeal.
This study seeks to confirm the initial hypothesis as to the fact that; whereas posters from Switzerland promote a distinct and clear message of an occurrence about an object, Korean posters appear to be concerned with exploring spatially defined social causes and effects, associated with an advertised product. The main goal of the project is to unite different languages in a verbal and visual design statement and to create a design that incorporates both: Western and Eastern advertisement methodologies. My objective, within the context of conducting present study, will be designing seven culturally ambivalent posters that promote student applications for the following institutes of the FHNW/HGK: Visual Communication, Interior Design and Scenography, Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Hyperwork, Design and Art Education and Art department.
Observation (Thesis work)
The tone of a language/text
As it was mentioned earlier, while analyzing the motifs contained in Korean and Swiss posters, I realized that unlike what it is being the case with Swiss designers of these posters, Korean ones tended to emphasize the situational context of a conveyed message. For example, the textual message in one of the Korean posters (featuring a female model in the center) states: ‘I am a princess. Therefore, it shouldn’t be over 19.8 degrees. Keep it 19.8 degrees I can allow you to have me’. As one can see, this poster’s message features clearly defined societal undertones, with the advertised beverage implied to serve as rather one among many motivational factors behind sexual socialization.
Another important aspect of how alcohol beverage is being advertised in this particular poster is the fact that its designers appear to have had no doubts whatsoever as to text’s social appropriateness. Regardless of what happened to be the particulars of their existential mode, the members of a targeted audience are assumed to be equally attracted to the perspective of having a sexual affair with the model (the workings of the Oriental psyche are being simultaneously holistic and highly collectivist). In other words, the designers went about encouraging people to perceive the benefits, which would eventually derive out of their willingness to purchase an advertised drink, as such that will have very little to do with this drink as ‘thing in itself’, but rather as ‘thing in context’.
Unlike what it is being the case with clearly contextual essence of advertisement messages, contained in Korean posters, the semiotic content in Swiss posters appears highly subjectivized – that is, in these posters, audiences’ attention is being drawn directly the advertised product. For example, the text in one of the Swiss posters says: ‘Extra fruit and freshness for longer’. Quite evidently, this kind of massage promotes the drink as not just one among many socialization-enhancing tools, as it is being the case with the message conveyed by earlier discussed Korean posters, but as an objective source of sensual pleasure. This can be explained by the fact that, in general, Westerners tend to be much less holistic and much more individualistically minded, as compared to what it is being the case with their Korean counterparts.
Another important difference between textual messages, contained in Swiss and Korean posters, is that – whereas the first ones are best defined as action-oriented (concerned with the present), the latter ones are best defined as meditation-oriented (concerned with past and with ‘future in the past’). For example, according to the textual message in one of the Korean posters: ‘I was too shy. If I am braver, our relationship could develop from a timid relationship to a closer relationship. The idioms ‘I was’ and ‘If I am’ connote poster’s appeal to one’s memory of events that occurred in the past. The reason for this is simple – Oriental (traditionalistic/collectivist) worldview, which greatly affects its affiliates’ behavioral pattern, can be best referred to as ‘apollonian’.
This worldview is based upon the assumption that the soul is ordered cosmos, that the conflict is evil, and that the life is threatened from outside. Hence, East Asians’ ill hidden tendency to avoid facing challenges of a present, their mental projection into the past and their preoccupation with trying to ‘blend’ with nature, as opposed to striving to take control of it (Greenwood 2009). This worldview stands in striking contrast to ‘Faustian’ (scientific/rationalistic) existential mode of Westerners, based upon the assumption that individual’s will-power must never cease combating obstacles, that the catastrophes of existence come as an inevitable culmination of past choices and experiences, and that the conflict is the essence of existence.
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that the Western psyche is mentally projected into the present and that in their relationship with nature, Westerners tend to subject alive themselves: “The dominant tradition in Western culture has constructed an idiosyncratic view of nature and consciousness… Nature is deemed merely an object, resource, or lower life-form” (Adams 15). Thus, there are several good reasons for the Western perception of surrounding reality to be of analytical rather than of situational nature.
The semiotic analysis of textual messages in Swiss posters illustrates the full validity of an earlier articulated idea. For example, one of the posters from Switzerland describes an advertised drink in the following manner: ‘With an extra shot of yeast’.
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This implies that, while being exposed to a particular object and while assessing this object’s representational aspects, Westerners tend to adopt a clearly defined rationalistic attitude – that is, they consider that object’s attributive emanations do provide an insight into object’s actual essence.
As an indirect proof to the legitimacy of has been said earlier can also serve my observations of how Western parents go about socializing with their children. After all, the scenes of such parents encouraging their kids to perceive objects through the lenses of materialistic rationale are utterly archetypal. For example, when a typical Western mother tries to familiarize its child with the notion of ‘car’, she would be most likely to describe the car as something that has innate characteristics: ‘Look at this car – it has four wheels, it is red and shiny’.
Oriental mother, on the other hand, would be most likely to introduce its child to the notion of ‘car’ by pointing at car’s contextual characteristics: ‘Look at this car – it allows passengers to enjoy fast and comfortable ride’. In other words, unlike what it is being the case with the Western psyche, Oriental psyche it utterly eclectic, because people of East Asian descent tend to perceive the universe and their place in it as being mutually interconnected to the point where it cannot even be ascertained whether emanations of surrounding reality should be referred to as such that exert ‘external’ influence onto concerned individuals’ existential mode.
In its turn, this partially explains why, unlike rationalistic Westerners, people that belong to Oriental cultures are much more likely to rely on their sense of intuition, when it comes to tackling challenges. As it was noted by Norenzayan et al. (2002): “European Americans, more than Chinese and Koreans, set aside intuition in favor of formal reasoning. Conversely, Chinese and Koreans rely on intuitive strategies more than European Americans” (653).
Apparently, by adopting intuitive stance, when it comes to dealing with a particular problem, Orientals once again prove the functioning of their psyche to essentially ‘apollonian’, because by being driven through life by their acute sense of intuition, these people never cease acting in a manner that does not oppose but rather accommodate nature. On the contrary – most Westerners prove their psyche of being ‘Faustian’ by referring to nature, and people from other cultures, as the subjects of subjugation.
Nowadays, such Westerners’ psychological trait is being widely criticized, because it is namely because of White people’s existential attitudes that many indigenous civilizations have been destroyed: “The Western mind’s overriding compulsion to impose some form of totalizing reason – theological, scientific, economic – on every aspect of life is accused of being not only self-deceptive but destructive” (Tarnas 400). This is the reason why Westerners tend to disregard the independently existing context of complex socio-cultural and environmental interactions – in their mind; reality’s contexts cannot be discussed outside of what represents their psychological anxieties. These theorizations, on my part, correlate with the observation of cognitive and reflective motifs, contained in Swiss and Korean posters.
I observed that posters from Switzerland have a distinct and clear message of occurrence about an object. On the other hand, the textual messages in Korean posters encourage observers to consider the full complexity of mutually interrelated relationships between causes and effects, which are assumed to originate from an advertised beverage’s purchasing. If let us say, Swiss advertisers wanted to emphasize the promoted beverage’s ability to bring people together, the textual message would have probably sounded as concrete as and ‘straight down to business’ as possible: ‘Our beer brings people together’. On the other hand, Korean posters that aim at encouraging people to associate the advertised drink with the prospect of spending time in a good company; will never skip articulating this idea in a situational and emotional manner: ‘See you soon is just an empty talk. If you miss each other, it is always better to say let’s go for a drink today’.
As it appears from the textual message in the above poster, the emphasis is being placed on the consequences of not having the drink. The event of ‘going for a drink’ has a series of effects, which are the focal point of discussion. Korean posters’ appealing power to the audiences is being concerned with the fact that, unlike what appears to be the case with Swiss posters, they prompt people to assess the value of a drink from behavioral rather than from purely experiential perspective.
This can be explained by clearly ‘apollonian’ workings of Oriental psyche – most East Asians do think that, for the true significance of causes and corresponding effects to be properly assessed, the full measure of its spatial continuity must be considered. Hence, Asians’ culturally predetermined tendency to think of causes and effects as such that derive out of each other in cyclical (contextual) rather than in a linear (dispositional) manner. For an individual, strongly affiliated with one of Oriental cultures, the full scope of probable consequences resulting from what he or she perceives as non-action, appear to be just as acute as the effects of even particularly volatile action.
As it was noted by Peng and Knowles (2003): “Americans favor internal/dispositional explanations for nonsocial events more than do Chinese, whereas Chinese prefer external/contextual explanations more than do Americans” (1282). The partial clue as to what should be considered the actual reason for Oriental and Western perceptional modes to be strikingly different can be found in Bruhl’s (1928) book.
According to the author: “Identity appears in Oriental collective representations… as a moving assemblage or totality of mystic actions and reactions, within which individual does not subject alive but objectualize itself” (120). What it means is that there are objective preconditions for East Asians to be endowed with a well-developed sense of utilitarian practicality and to rely on this sense, when it comes to addressing life’s challenges. As it was shown in Bruhl’s book, after having been asked to exclude semantically unrelated word out of wordily sequence ax – hammer – saw – log, natives from Vietnam’s remote rural areas were experiencing a particularly hard time while dealing with the task.
In their eyes, the earlier mentioned sequence made perfectly good sense as it was (due to what they perceived as the extent of these words’ ‘usefulness’). The fact that the words ax, hammer and saw could be categorized as ‘instruments’, on one hand, and that the word log could be categorized as ‘material’, on another, never even occurred to these people. The fact that Oriental cultures are being concerned with exploring specifically contextual aspects of reality’s manifestations, points out at these cultures’ pre-logical essence.
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that; whereas, it is not utterly uncommon for Western posters to be limiting associated textual messages to drastically simplified statements such as – ‘This is beer’ (meaning – this particular kind of beer is the only one that deserves being referred to as beer, in the full sense of this word), textual messages contained in most Korean posters do not draw a strict line between the process of alcohol’s consumption and the process of enjoying alcohol-stimulated socialization with others: ‘Good to see you. Thank you. I love you. Take care. It is always better to clink a glass than saying a word’, or – ‘I was too shy. If I’m braver, our relationship could develop from a timid relationship to a closer relationship:
Thus, it will only be logical to conclude that the apparent difference in Swiss and Korean posters’ semiotic contents is not incidental but rather dialectically predetermined.
Nevertheless, the difference between how Swiss and Korean poster designers address their professional duties may not only be discussed within the methodological context of semiology but also aesthetics. The full legitimacy of this statement can be illustrated about what accounts for the principles of aesthetic composition, utilized in Swiss and Korean posters. What immediately catches one’s eye, upon being exposed to Swiss posters (and Western posters in general), is that there is an unmistakable symmetry to how advertised products are being visually represented:
This can be explained by White people’s rather well-developed talent in not only sensing but also in analyzing the ways of nature and in making practical use of them. According to Rieser (1956): “All (Western) artistic forms are derivative from natural forms. This is true of structure, columns, decoration of buildings, the role of ‘repetition’ in a stylistic pattern, etc.” (270). And, what is the most fundamental principle, which defines the external appearance of natural forms? It is the principle of symmetry. Even a glance at particularly primitive organisms, such as bacteria, leaves few doubts as to the full soundness of such an idea:
The fact that, while observing living organisms (particularly through a microscope), Westerners have come to realize that the measure of living forms’ symmetry defines the extent of their complexity and consequentially – their chances of survival, correlated perfectly well with ‘Faustian’ vision of the universe, as highly ordered but impersonal (cruel) system, within which one must never cease growing ever more complex and powerful, to remain on the leading edge of evolution. Given the fact that Western history is essentially the history of never-ending conquest, it does not come as much of a surprise that aesthetic motifs, contained in most Swiss posters, are meant to persuade the members of targeted audiences to remain in close touch with their intrinsic essence of rationale-driven beings, who exercise complete sovereignty over their own lives.
From an aesthetic point of view, the Oriental approach deployed in designing advertisement posters could not be more different. After all, the bulk of Korean posters can be referred to as anything but as such that feature representational symmetry:
In these posters, the images of advertised products are being commonly situated in the corners, which strengthens the impression of representational misbalance. Such characteristic of Korean posters appears to be consistent with Oriental psyche’s perceptional ambivalence. As true ‘apollonian’, East Asians strive to refrain from rationalizing reality’s manifestations by deliberately expanding the focus of their analytical attention to the point when this attention attains the subtleties of a reflection. This observation correlates with earlier articulated thesis as to the fact that Orientals tend to ‘contextualize’ informational inputs.
Lastly, my analysis also revealed that Korean posters utilize more calligraphy as compared to what it is being the case with ones from Switzerland, which signifies the fact that Western culture, in general, is more attuned to word content than to vocal content:
The reason why Swiss posters appear to lack calligraphic elements is that the audiences, targeted by these posters, are assumed to be rationalistically minded, which in turn causes them to disregard the design of textually expressed semiotics as quite irrelevant.
Main object and field information
From my observation of advertisement posters from South Korea and Switzerland, it appears that people about Oriental culture tend to concentrate on events that reveal human figures within the context of socialization-related activities; whereas, people about Western culture are more concerned with the product itself. According to Masuda et al. (2008), there is nothing odd about the fact that, unlike what happened to be the case with Western ‘object-focused’ perceptional mode, the Oriental perceptional model is best defined as ‘context-focused’.
The reason why Europeans assess surrounding realities from an essentially linear perspective can be explained by their well-developed sense of individualism. Alternatively, Asians’ tendency to assess surrounding realities through the lenses of contextualism, can be explained by the fact that during history, there were fully objective reasons for Oriental people to proceed with addressing life’s challenges in strongly defined collectivist/communal manner.
The legacy of collectivism and communalism continues to define the realities of Oriental living even today. For example, according to Yeung and Tung (1996), while executing their professional duties most Chinese managers are not being concerned as much with applying rationale to increase the extent of commercial organizations’ objective competitiveness, but with establishing ‘useful connections’ with people of social prominence (usually governmental officials). Authors discuss such tendency, on the part of Chinese managers, within the conceptual framework of guanxi, which they define as: “The establishment of a connection between two independent individuals to enable a bilateral flow of personal or social transactions” (p. 55).
And, there can be few doubts as to the fact that such tendency, on the part of Chinese managers, is culturally motivated – it is nothing but social extrapolation of the workings of these people’s collectivism-driven mentality. This is exactly the reason why; whereas, Western culture is more concerned with ‘dispositional factors’, Eastern culture is more concerned with ‘contextual factors’. The earlier articulated idea well correlates with semiotic themes and motifs, contained in Swiss and Korean posters. The foremost characteristic of Swiss posters is that their designers prioritize depicting the actual product:
As can be seen in the above image, it is not only that the bottle of beer occupies a centralized place in the poster, but there are no even hints as to the fact that consuming this beer could prove much more enjoyable when sociable. Moreover, the poster’s textual message ‘The dignity of beer is untouchable’ subtly implies that it is perfectly natural for an individual to drink beer alone – after all, one’s dignity is something that is best reflected upon when nothing disrupts the process of reflecting.
Contrary to that, Korean designers prioritize depicting that event:
The textual message in the above poster can be translated as follows: ‘Question: Should I kiss you with my eyes closed or looking at you? Which way is cooler? Answer: Think casual’. Thus, it comes as not a particular surprise that, unlike what it is being the case with Korean posters, only a few Western ones contain images of people – the depiction of human figures in posters has the aim of emphasizing the action, such as socializing, having fun, dreaming, relaxing. The depiction of products in Western posters, on the other hand, aims at encouraging observers to explore a product’s physical attributes. Therefore, for designers of these posters popularizing socialization could well prove counter-beneficial.
It is important to understand that the subtleties of Oriental people’s contextual perception manifest themselves not only in the advertisement but also in a vast number of artistic pursuits, such as interior design, for example. As it was pointed out by Masuda et al. (2008), such design is characterized by: “Wide-open space… which can be intentionally left empty so viewers can enjoy the sense of ma (space) as a softening factor of salient visual representation” (1263). Therefore, it makes perfectly good sense for Korean posters to feature ‘spaciousness’ as one of their most distinctive characteristics while deriving out of the same metaphysical source, the workings of Oriental psyche never cease remaining qualitatively and spatially homogeneous, which in turn explains why these workings extrapolate themselves in essentially the same representational manner.
In conclusion, Swiss and Korean advertisement posters can be regarded as an appropriate illustration of cultural diversity. They advertise alcoholic drinks in methodologically different ways, since the members of targeted audiences, about both cultures, perceive visual codes in a qualitatively different manner. Westerners and Orientals focus on different things. It represents the matter of crucial importance for advertisers to be aware of what accounts for perceptional particulars of targeted audience’s cultural affiliation – this is the actual key to ensuring their professional adequacy.
The validity of earlier provided line of argumentation in defense of a thesis that the observation of themes and motifs in Korean and Swiss posters points out to the endowment of representatives of both cultures with different mentalities can be illustrated in regards to several academic studies/articles, the authors of which promote essentially the same idea. Generally, these authors can be classified as falling into two distinctive categories – those who advocate the appropriateness of utilization of neurological approach to addressing the difference between Western and Oriental mentalities (‘physiologists’), and those who promote an idea that this difference is being environmentally rather than biologically predetermined (‘futurologists’).
According to the promoters of the neurological/biological approach to dealing with the issue of often clearly defined mental incompatibility between Easterners and Westerners, the actual trigger of such an incompatibility is physiological: “(As compared to East Asians) White American adults… have higher cortical thickness in frontal, parietal and medial-temporal polymodal association areas in both hemispheres” (Chee et al. 1065). The reason why Orientals tend to look into the context of particular information as such that reveals such information’s practical implications is that, as opposed to what it happened to be the case with Westerners, the left hemisphere of their brain (responsible for processing emotions) appears being enlarged in size.
‘Cultorologists’, on another hand, explain the contextual/collectivist workings of Oriental psyche as having been predetermined by purely environmental factors, such as the factor of East Asians’ affiliation with the religions of Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Buddhism: “Confucius considered the family to be the basic building block of society… An indicator of the importance of family ties, and the primacy of family over the individual (in Oriental societies), is the practice of using the family name first, as in Sun Yat-sen” (Scarborough 51).
After all, the followers of earlier mentioned religions have always been known for their love towards nature, for their strongly defined sacrificial instincts, and their communal and family-oriented mode of existence. This partially explains another distinctive feature of Korean posters – the fact that unlike what it is being the case with Swiss ones, the motif of sexuality/sensuality plays rather a prominent role in increasing the extent of these posters’ appeal. After all, physically attractive female models with sexually suggestive smiles on their faces can be seen in just about every Korean poster.
However, it appears that opposing ‘physiological’ and ‘cultorological’ approaches, as the tools of addressing differentiation between Eastern and Western mentalities, is not fully appropriate. The specifics of people’s genetic makeup and the specifics of their cultural/religious affiliation are equally responsible for formulating the sense of people’s self-identity, out of which their perceptional modes derive. In its turn, this would explain why; whereas some elements of how Westerners and Asians go about reflecting upon environmental exposures seem to be of intrinsic (genetically predetermined) nature, the others appear to be culturally motivated.
For example, the fact that, as it was mentioned earlier, in most Swiss posters particularly large images of advertised beverages are being situated directly at the center, confirms the validity of ‘physiological’ approach – the subjectualization of an object by the mean of prompting observers to focus their full attention on exploring object’s visual attributes is one of the most distinctive characteristics of one’s rationale-driven (with brain’s dominant right hemisphere) mindset. The same can be said about Korean designers’ subconscious tendency to situate the images of advertised products in either of posters’ lower corners – by doing it, Korean designers never cease remaining in close touch with workings of Oriental collective archetype, concerned with one’s strive to ‘blend’ with the environment.
Nevertheless, the fact that most textual messages, contained in Korean advertisements, deliberately utilize comparatively small fonts is best addressed within the methodological framework of the ‘culturological’ approach. The specifics of children’s upbringing in Oriental families create objective preconditions for the children to continue professing the virtue of respect towards the elders, even after they reach adulthood – Korean designers’ tendency to refrain from using large fonts in supplementary texts is an extrapolation of their strong affiliation with so-called ‘traditional values’.
Similar thesis can apply in regards to another distinctive feature of Korean posters – the fact that in many of them, textual messages occupy as much space as the images of people enjoying the drink, which sets Korean posters apart from Swiss ones, where textual messages are not being endowed with the semiotic significance of their own. Cultural and neurological explanations of how Oriental people perceive surrounding realities are equally applicable within the context of discussing the essence of this specific characteristic of Korean posters’ design – designers simultaneously experience two mutually interrelated urges to fill posters’ rather spacious backgrounds and to provide moral justification to the process of consuming alcoholic beverages.
The observations of what constitute the principal differences in the design of Swiss and Korean posters, and the articulated earlier theorizations as to metaphysical roots of these differences, had made my task of designing seven posters that would be equally appealing to Western and Oriental audiences, particularly challengeable. This is because, from what has been implied in paper’s preceding subchapters, it appears that the fact that Korean and Swiss posters feature qualitatively different visual and textual semiotics cannot be discussed within the context of designers experimenting with different marketing approaches alone. Enough, the existence of common patterns in how Korean designers, on one hand, and Swiss designers, on another, go about providing a commercial appeal to essentially the same products (e.g. alcoholic beverages), points out to an undeniable fact that the subtleties of Western and Oriental mentalities’ perceptional and cognitive functioning cannot be referred to as solely situational.
Nevertheless, whatever the legitimate it might be, such realization of my part, stands in striking opposition to the conventions of political correctness, the advocates of which (very often governmental officials) never cease promoting an idea that, regardless of what happened to the specifics of their ethnocultural and racial affiliation, people are equal in their attitudinal, perceptional and cognitive predispositions.
In other words, the data relevant to the researched subject matter, which I obtained while conducting the study’s empirical phase, exposes the sheer fallaciousness of suggestions that existential anxieties of a particular individual should be discussed outside of what happened to be his or her culture/race. Just as it has been illustrated earlier – culture/race does matter. It is needless to mention, therefore, that I experienced the sense of certain uneasiness while conceptualizing what should account for the proper way of incorporating the study’s initial findings into the matrix of a technical approach to designing seven culturally ambivalent posters.
Moreover, I also realized that for me to be able to create simultaneously Western/Oriental posters, I would not only have to mechanistically combine the elements of culturally affiliated design but to do it in a truly integrative way. That is, in seven Western/Oriental posters these elements would have to be mutually supplementary and counter-balancing at the same time. This proved to be a particularly challenging task because as was pointed out earlier, the culturally depended methodologies for designing advertisement posters in Switzerland and South Korea differ rather drastically.
Partially, I was able to address this problem by the mean of deliberately turning what members of Oriental and Western audiences would otherwise consider ‘nonsense’ into thought-provoking mental triggers. For example, as it will be shown later while creating institute fashion design posters, I fused Oriental ‘context-oriented’ and Western ‘object-oriented’ approaches to increasing the commercial appeal of a particular product into one structurally homogeneous and culturally ambivalent approach.
While being exposed to this particular poster, East Asians and Westerners will experience the spectrum of emotions, commonly associated with what psychologists define as cognitive dissonance (the emotional state that comes to being as the result of individual consciousness’s exposure to several mutually incompatible but equally valid notions). Even though that these emotions can hardly be referred to as particularly pleasurable (amazement, cognitive displacement, disillusion, mental aggravation), they nevertheless will help culturally ambivalent posters to hold viewers’ attention for quite some time – and, this is exactly what advertisement posters are meant to do.
Given the fact that culturally predetermined workings of one’s psyche cannot be regarded as 100% ‘pure’ (there is always a little bit of Asian in every European and a little bit of European in every Asian), this makes it possible for designers to increase the extent of posters’ emotional appeal to the audiences by the mean of including in these posters ‘archetype-awakening’ subliminal messages.
The realization of this fact helped me to create institute industrial poster design, which is not only being expected to simultaneously appeal to Western and Oriental audiences but also to prompt the members of Western audiences to come in close touch with their long-forgotten archetypical anxieties, such as their subliminal strive towards ‘ideal’ divinity, quite inconsistent with these people’s otherwise rationale-driven mode of cognition. In the project’s next part, I will elaborate on deployed strategies for creating culturally ambivalent seven posters at length.
Western + Oriental (Practical-Creative Thesis work)
Given my earlier discussed observations, in regards to what represents themes and motifs in Korean and Swiss posters, it was only logical on my part to expect just about all the forms of advertisement content, influenced by both cultures, to be ‘object-oriented’ on one hand, and ‘context-oriented on another. In its turn, this justifies the classification of fashion design into two distinctive groups: the fashion of clothes itself and the style of wearing the clothes.
The action of putting on clothes, getting dressed and changing clothes emphasize the idea of the context of clothes. Korean posters tend to emphasize the spatial aspects of a particular style rather than purely attributive aspects of an advertised clothing item. This is why in Korean posters, the images of human figures are usually situated in the background, to ensure that the worn clothes are being represented dynamically – hence, the high extent of Korean posters’ thematic contextualization.
While creating my design for the poster that would incorporate Oriental and Korean ways of making an advertised product appealing to the targeted audiences, I never ceased being observant of earlier mentioned principles. This explains the subtleties of an approach to creating such a poster, I deployed during a process – in the model-design poster, the female model is being shown without the actual clothes on her body (the blank space is used instead); whereas, while retaining the recognizable contours of one’s body, a fully dressed male model is being represented bodiless.
The two foremost considerations behind adopting this particular strategy for designing a poster can be articulated as follows:
- By being exposed to the image of a female model that is neither dressed nor naked, Westerners will most like to experience the sensation of cognitive dissonance, as this image is being quite inconsistent with highly rational workings of the Western psyche. Consequently, this will boost their curiosity and will ultimately catch their full attention.
- By being exposed to the image of a fully dressed but ‘bodiless’ male model, the members of Oriental audiences will be prompted to consider the possibility for their tendency to contextualize life’s challenges, within the framework of family-oriented socialization, to be not quite as intellectually beneficial as they usually think.
The fusion between Western and Oriental motifs in the poster accounts for the following: 1) Even though the theme of socialization is being explored rather extensively (the images of a man and woman through different stages of social interaction), the emphasis is not being placed onto sensual aspects of such a socialization, as it is being usually the case in ‘pure’ Oriental posters. 2) In the poster, the centrally situated image of a woman is being subjectivized similarly to how alcoholic beverages are being subjectivized in Western posters, which is supposed to be correlative with the Western mind’s cognitive inclinations.
Institute visual communication
Regardless of an associative context, typography plays a substantial role in visual communication. Typography in interpersonal communication gives people the sense of being in full control of conveying the intended messages. While analyzing posters from two cultures, I discovered that, as compared to Western posters, the Korean ones heavily rely on utilization of decorative calligraphy. The reason why Swiss posters appear to lack calligraphic elements could be that Western audiences are more interested in the actual content of the message rather than in the manner of how it is being presented to them.
Nevertheless, while conceptualizing what would account for the proper way of designing the type of visual communication, equally appealing to the affiliates of Western and Oriental cultures, I realized that simply combining differently styled typographies into a single one would not prove very effective. My solution to this was showing the actual form of a blank sheet of paper, which represents the idea of visual communication, along with the template that contains Hangul letters, which can be used as a semiotic medium to convey messages in German.
In that way, Hangul and German can be used interchangeably. I laid out the visual communication that works as a graphic form for people who do not know Korean letters. I also created an emblem for VISCOM (Visual Communication), which is read as alphabetically constructed abbreviation, but in Hangul. Visual communication, as the concept, implies communication through visualized and material means. Therefore, by having hands holding the sheets of paper in the poster, I wanted to emphasize the fact that visual communication is conducted through a surface medium.
Even though the actual text is being evenly spread throughout the poster and supposedly conveys a contextual message (as it is being the case in classical Oriental posters), it has the certain quality of transparency, which deems its contextual subtleties quite irrelevant – hence, making this particular element of poster’s design equally appealing to Western and Oriental psyches. Another ‘dual’ aspect of the poster’s design is the inclusion of clearly abstractionist motifs in the form of images of opened books with geometrical elements on their pages.
These geometrical abstractions are of clearly ‘Faustian’ nature because it is named by indulging in abstract thinking that Westerners were able to advance science, and to consequently attain an undisputed geopolitical dominance in the world. Nevertheless, given the fact that geometrical abstractions are not being emphasized as representing the poster’s central theme, their visual utilization should also be consistent with how Orientals construct their perceptional worldviews.
Institute interior design and scenography
Traditional East Asian religions, such as Confucianism and Taoism, cannot be effectively discussed without mentioning the fact that their theological premises encourage followers to adopt environmentally friendly attitudes. This partially explains the scenography of Korean mask dances, which are being performed outdoors, with the nature itself serving as a backdrop.
The strongly defined mystical motifs in Korean mask dance and purely technical aspects of its staging, once again explain hidden motives behind highly contextualized essence of Oriental cultures. While interacting with the surrounding environment, most East Asians never cease considering themselves such an environment’s integral parts – hence, their endowment with mysticism-driven spirituality. This explains the foremost aspect of Korean scenography – unlike what it is being the case with Western scenography, it does not tend to create but rather to facilitate already existing performance environments.
While trying to illustrate that in my poster design, I focused on underlining performance’s emotional emanations. To represent the dancer’s movement, I applied brushstrokes of paint following her spatial evolutions. I believe that by doing this, I was able to provide three-dimensionality to the event that is taking place within the poster’s otherwise two-dimensional system of spatial coordinates.
Also, the fact that the dancer is depicted amid triangularly shaped objects, which endow poster with perceptual depth, strengthens the contextual sounding of the poster’s message. At the same time, given the fact that, while situated at the center of a poster, the image of the dancer emanates the materialness of an associative movement, the poster should be equally appealing to Western viewers, endowed with rationale-driven mentality.
Institute hyper work
Hyperwork is a field where students learn to build communication networks. I found that in most Oriental posters, human figures engaging in different types of activities are being incorporated into visualized messages as their integral components. This sets these posters apart from Western ones, where the inclusion of human figures appears incidental. Apparently, by exposing audiences to the images of people in posters, Korean designers strived to appeal to the workings of audiences’ collective subconsciousness, as such that are being concerned with objectualized action rather than with subjectivized presence.
My poster design, however, is expected to be culturally correlative with both: Oriental and Western perceptional modes, because even though the presence of human figures in this poster does emphasize the contextual aspects of a conveyed message, their representational sketchiness and the randomness of their situating does not imply the actual context being the solemn source of associative semiotics.
The lines that connect sketcherized human figures in the poster are meant to symbolize the systemic subtleties of communication among people, which in turn should attract the attention of Oriental audiences, as such that consist of people who assign great value to the practical significance of social interactions. At the same time, even though the depicted human figures are shown as being interconnected with each other, their spatial distribution on the poster implies loneliness.
This impression is being strengthened even further by the fact that the poster’s background exploits the theme of a cloudy sky. Whereas; the images of a sky have traditionally been exploited in artistic works where the theme of infinity plays a prominent role in defining such works’ semiotics, the artistic representations of clouds have usually been utilized to evoke the loss of death-related anxieties. Thus, there are good reasons to expect the imagery of this particular poster to be found intellectually stimulating by representatives of both: Western and Oriental cultures.
Institute industrial design
Given the fact that, as it was mentioned earlier, there is a qualitative difference in how individuals affiliated with Oriental and Western cultures perceive the significance of objective reality’s emanations, it was only logical on my part to never cease being observant of this consideration, while creating a poster that would incorporate the elements of industrial design.
Hence, the specifics of poster’s appearance:
- The shadows of material objects are being distributed throughout the poster in a manner similar with what it happened to be the case with the actual material objects (this emphasizes the interconnectedness between objects’ metaphysical and physical natures),
- Neither of material objects nor their shadows dominates on poster visually (this implies the validity of both: object-orientedness and context-orientedness),
- Poster features no centralized fixation on either material objects or their metaphysical manifestations (shadows),
- Even though there is a certain symmetry to how material objects are being situated on the poster (this is supposed to appeal to Western rationale), the integrity of this symmetry is being undermined by semi-transparent geometrical figures of the cube, triangle and tetrahedron, colored in red.
This is being consistent with how the Oriental psyche perceives the universe – something chaotic and such that emanates danger, rather than something that functions by objectively existing physical laws, such as the principle of symmetry. Therefore, it will only be logical to assume that this particular poster should be considered dually attuned with Western and Oriental cultures.
One of the most striking characterizes of Oriental paintings is the fact that they rarely feature any framing, whatsoever. This fully correlates with what has been hypothesized earlier as to the very essence of Oriental psyche. Most East Asians do not actively oppose themselves against the surrounding environment, which is being manifested in Oriental art forms with perfect clarity – these art forms appear to be projected into infinity. And, the projection into infinity cannot possibly be limited – hence, the absence of wooden frames in Korean paintings.
Contrary to that, most Western paintings do not only feature wooden frames but very often these frames themselves represent the works of art. The realization of this fact defined the strategy I deployed while creating the artistic poster. Whereas; the actual objects of this poster are differently designed frames, the poster itself is frameless. Also, even though the enlarged frame is being prominently featured at the center, the subtleties of its appearance are being suggestive of the fact that frame’s centralized presence may be incidental, as its three-dimensionality is being blended into poster’s overall two-dimensionality.
While deciding upon this specific element of poster design, I was driven by consideration of prompting culturally diverse (Western and Oriental) viewers to critically assess the validity of how they go about reflecting upon surrounding realities. Whereas upon being exposed to this poster, Westerners would be encouraged to consider the possibility that object’s physical attributes do not necessarily reveal its intrinsic essence, East Asians would simultaneously be prompted to consider the possibility that object’s contextual emanations never cease undergoing qualitative transformation, and as such, should not be considered truly insightful. Therefore, I believe that this particular poster’s design will simultaneously appeal to both: Western and Oriental psyches.
Institute design and art education
The process of an individual indulging in educational pursuits has often been compared with the growth of a tree – just as it is being the case with the newly planted tree, which gradually becomes enlarged in size, as time goes on, such an individual becomes ever more knowledgeable in different fields of science. In its turn, the obtained knowledge in different scientific fields springs up new, often implicit forms of knowledge (tree branches). Hence, the analogy with a growing tree.
The reasons I believe that the design of this particular poster is being quite correlative with the subconscious workings of Oriental and Western mentalities, can be outlined as follows:
- The process of tree’s growth is being represented as something rather linearly defined (Westerners do tend to assess reality’s emanations from a distinctively linear perspective, which can be illustrated by the Western concept of history as such that it’s being strongly associated with the notion of a continuous social, cultural and scientific progress),
- Poster does not emphasize either of consequential stages of tree’s growth (this is supposed to appeal to environmentally pantheistic and socially egalitarian workings of Asian psyche),
- Poster’s background is white (on one hand, this is supposed to imply neutrality, but on another, it is expected to evoke racial instincts in Western observers),
- The depiction of a hand with black soil on it, out of which tree grows, implies environmental friendliness, which has traditionally been considered one of the Oriental people’s most distinctive behavioral traits,
- The composition’s apparent symmetry is expected to increase the extent of poster’s overall appeal to Western audiences, as a rationale-driven mode of perception finds symmetrically balanced forms aesthetically appealing.
Due to the realities of economic and intercultural Globalization, our planet is becoming increasingly ‘flat’, in a sense that cultural/national boundaries no longer serve as impossible obstacles on the way of people from different countries exploring the full extent of their existential potentials. This is exactly the reason why, as time goes on, Western societies become progressively more multicultural. In its turn, this presents bracketologists with the challenge of working out a universally applicable advertisement strategy that could be used to increase the appeal of a particular commercial product among culturally diverse consumers.
I believe that by working on the present project I was able to contribute to currently ongoing research, in this respect. As it was shown earlier, the specifics of people’s ethnocultural affiliation do not only affect their purchasing choices but also provide bracketologists with a clue as to how they should approach the task of designing culturally appropriate advertisement mediums. Nevertheless, I believe that that foremost value of this project accounts for the fact that, while working on it, I was able to prove that it is technically possible to combine two qualitatively different (culturally dependent) advertisement strategies to increase the efficiency of advertisement-based marketing as ‘thing in itself’.
At the same time, it would be too early, on my part, to suggest that while conducting this study I was able to thoroughly explore all of the associative aspects of how people’s culturally defined tendency to perceive surrounding reality in distinctively different ways affects their consumerism-related behavioral patterns. Also, given the fact that this study’s subject matter was comparatively narrow (only the influence of Oriental and Western cultures on people’s modes of perception has been researched), the practical applicability of the study’s findings is best defined as spatially constrained.
I believe that, to be able to fill the present study’s ‘blanks’, future researchers should focus on exploring what accounts for dialectically predetermined links between people’s culture-based perceptional modes and the rate of their Intellectual Quotidian (IQ). After all, there are good reasons to think that it is namely people’s varying ability to operate with abstract categories that define qualitative manifestations of their culture and not the vice versa. In other words, within the context of defining the essence of an individual’s behavioral patterns, his or her culture per se plays only a supplementary role. Given the fact that, as of today, the discursive validity of politically correct dogmas grows progressively undermined, it would only be logical to conclude that it is only a matter of time before earlier articulated hypothesis will become the subject of an empirical research.
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