Questions for Analyzing Images
What is the appearance of the image? Is it black and white? Color? Is it in
focus or is it blurry? Consider how the form in which the image is expressed affects
its message. If an image is composed of primary colors, does it look fun and lively,
What kind of image is it? Is it abstract, does it represent an actual person
or place, or is it a combination of the two? If people are represented, who are they?
Who does not appear? What are the people doing? Are they looking at each other,
at the viewer, or away from the viewer?
Who is the intended audience for the image? Is it an artistic photograph or
a commercial work, such as an advertisement? If it is an ad, to what kind of
person is it directed? Where is the ad placed? If the image is in a magazine,
consider the audience for the publication. Do you need any background
information to understand the image?
What emotions does the image convey? Overall, is it serious, sad, funny? Is
its expression of emotion, in your opinion, intentional? What emotional
associations do you have with the image?
If the image includes more than one element, what is the most prominent
element in the composition? A particular section? A logo? Any writing? A person
or group of people? A product? Why are some elements larger than others? How
does each part contribute to the whole?
Where does the image’s layout lead your eye? Are you drawn to any specific
part? What is the order in which you look at the various parts? Does any particular
section immediately stand out?
Does the image include text? If so, how do the image and the text relate to
Does the image call for a response? For instance, does it suggest that you
purchase a product? If so, what claims does it make?
Audience: The intended audience for this jeans ad is most likely a
woman in her late twenties or older. We see only the model’s
back, so she is faceless. That allows the viewer to project herself
into the scene, and the nostalgic look suggests that the viewer
could imagine herself at a younger time in her life. Note that the
product is “stretch” jeans. There’s no suggestion here, although
it is often made in ads for other brands, that the jeans will
enhance a woman’s sexual appeal; rather, the claim is that the
jeans are practical — and will fit a body beyond the teen years.
Note the sensible hairstyle and shoes. For an interesting contrast,
you might compare this ad to one for Diesel jeans.
Emotion: The woman’s body language suggests individuality and
determination; she’s literally “going it alone.” She’s neither
posing for nor aware of the viewer, suggesting that “what you
see is what you get.” And, perhaps, she doesn’t particularly care
what you think.
Composition and layout: The layout of the ad is carefully designed
to lead your eye: The hill slopes down from top right toward
middle left, and the bike draws your eye from bottom right to
mid-left, with both lines converging on the product, the jeans.
For easy readability, the text appears at the top against the
Text: The message, “The things that give a woman substance will
never appear on any ‘what’s in/what’s out’ list,” suggests that
Lee jeans are a product for women who aren’t interested in
following trends, but rather want a good, old-fashioned
value — “substance,” not frivolity.
Response: The manufacturer of Lee jeans would prefer, naturally,
that the viewer of the ad buy the product. The viewer would
identify with the woman wearing the jeans in the advertisement
and be convinced that these practical (if not particularly
cutting-edge) jeans would be a good purchase.
In sum, most fashion ads stress the friends (and often, mates) you
will attract if you buy the product, but this ad presents “a road not
taken,” suggesting the American ideology of marching to the beat of
a different drummer, the kind of old-fashioned individualism that
brings to mind Robert Frost and Henry David Thoreau. The pastoral
surroundings and the “old painting” effect echo artists such as
Andrew Wyeth and Norman Rockwell. All these impressions connote
lasting American values (rural, solid, middle American) that are
meant to be associated with anti-trendiness and enduring qualities,
such as individualism and practicality. And these impressions suggest
the advertisers carefully and effectively kept the ad’s semiotic
messages in mind as they designed it.
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