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Theories Of Visual Communication, Branding And Consumer Behaviour And Reception

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1.1 Visual Communication Theory (Gestalt)

Visual communication is vital in graphic design as all graphical elements are associated with our eyes. This is why packaging on any product is important to appeal to the consumer at first glance focusing on key design elements including colour, shape, space and size. In contrast, Gestalt’s theory on the principles of perception assures you that the design and perceptual experience is positive and the message behind the design is transferred to the viewer. The translation of the term Gestalt in German is defined as “unified whole.”(Wong, 2010) The three German psychologists Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Kohler were all former colleagues who founded Gestalt’s theory in the early twentieth century. (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019) Koffka states, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” (Wong, 2010) This quote is a summary of what Gestalt’s theory consists of by ‘adding layers of meaning’ (Wong, 2010) by using the six different principles. Gestalt’s theory became known as a checklist in design as it assures the design‘s perceptual experience is pleasing which will improve the user’s experience and becomes impactful towards the consumer. The six principles include Law of Similarity, Continuity, Closure, Figure/Ground, Proximity and Symmetry. (Hollis, 2010, pg.88)

The first principle is the Law of Similarity. This is when the viewer would instinctively group elements such as the shape, colour and size together because they are similar. (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019)

For the second principle, the Law of Continuity Gestalt states that, “Elements arranged in a straight line or smooth curve is perceived as a group, and are interpreted as being more related than elements not on the line or curve”. (Lidwell, 2010) The Law of Continuity can be useful if the design could guide the user’s eye in to a certain path within the design. In summary, the viewer’s eye will instinctively follow the path of the line rather than separated objects around the page.

The next principle is the Law of Closure. The definition of this principle states, “the principle of closure enables designers to reduce complexity by reducing the number of elements needs to organise and communicate information…” (Lidwell, 2010) This definition highlights the fact that our brain will automatically fill in any missing gaps or spaces in the design to create a pattern that is reflected back upon the viewer’s experience. (User Testing Blog, 2019)

The fourth principle is the law of Figure/Ground, also known as ‘Pragnänz’. This principle relates to how the eye can differentiate between the (figure) foreground and background (ground) in a design. Therefore, this principle can be described as a visual effect since both the figure and ground can be two separate images. (Creative Bloq, 2018)

The fifth principle, Law of Proximity is based on the distance from one element (shape and colour) to another. If the element is close to each other then it is automatically grouped and seen as a whole whereas, if the element was further away from each other it would be seen as two separate groups. (User Testing Blog, 2019)

Lastly, the Law of Symmetry is based around the idea that the different components on a page should be balanced as this can affect the user’s attention on trying to group and fix the image. Hence, all components should be balanced and symmetrically equal in order to create visual balance within the design. (Creative Bloq, 2018)

1.2 Cross-Cultural Theory (Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory)

The idea of cultural differences is significant to international businesses’ and brands as their objective is to connect and understand more about the local consumers. Hence, they are interconnected to the global market. All of this is linked in with the idea of culture. The definition of culture described by Hofstede states, “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another”. (Hofstede, 1980, pg25) By understanding culture, business would have to consider the different cultural styles and ways of communication between each countries in order to ‘develop strong relationships with consumers’ (pg. 26, Nigel Hollis) Geert Hofstede who was a psychologist, who coordinated “personnel research at IBM” working from 1965-1971. (Boeing, 2013) He conducted a study for the ‘four-dimensional model of national cultures’ (Minkov, 2012) to describe and differentiate cultures. The four dimensions include: Power Distance Index (PDI), Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI), Individualism Versus Collectivism (IDV) and Masculinity Versus Femininity (MAS). By 1985, Hofstede added a fifth dimension in collaboration with Chinese Scholars from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. (Klaes, 2015) The survey was designed to ‘study student values in 23 countries’ (Minkov, 2012). Chinese Scholars and Michael’s colleagues collaborated with one another in creating this questionnaire. The survey introduced by Michael Harris Bond is called the Chinese Values Survey (CVS). (Minkov, 2012) Michael originally named the dimension as “Confucian Work Dynamism” because it correlated with the teachings of Confucius. (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987) Additionally, Hofstede chosen to include this fifth dimension and renamed it to “Long Term Versus Short Term Orientation” because the previous four dimensions did not include information about economic growth. Furthermore, the last dimension Indulgence versus Restraint (IND) was added in 2010. Hofstede based these dimensions on his own research while he was working at IBM as a psychologist. It states that Hofstede has ‘collected and analysed data from over 100,000 individuals from 50 countries in 3 regions.’ (Hollis, 2010, pg. 88,) All of the dimensions have a range from 0 to 100 and each country will be separated in two categories a high and low range. The six dimensions include:

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Power Distance Index (PDI) refers to whether the people in the ‘society accept inequity’. (Hofstede Insights, 2019) The results will either turn out to have either a high or low power distance. If there is a high degree of power distance in society, it means that people know their ‘hierarchical status’. (Hofstede Insights, 2019) People will respect their position and authority whereas if the society has a low degree of power distance there is no hierarchy power. (Hofstede Insight, 2019) In addition, people in this society are aware and accept this concept.

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI), which Hofstede states, “extent which members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations”. (Hofstede, 1991, pg13) This indicates whether the society could cope with the ‘uncertainty of the future’ (Hofstede Insight, 2019). Societies with a high UAI have strict rules to minimise uncertainty and ambiguity, as they are more expressive (Corporate Finance Institute, 2019) whereas societies with a low UAI are more open with their mindset and are willing to take risks for change and innovation. (Mind Tools, 2019)

Thirdly, Individualism and Collectivism (IDV) refers to whether people would prefer being by themselves or to work as a group. Individualism would refer to the person to have a ‘high value on privacy’ and ‘weak interpersonal connection’ (Mind Tools, 2019) as they prefer on accomplishing their own personal goals whereas collectivism indicates that working, as a group is more important. This category focuses on building a good relationship with a team.

The fourth dimension is Masculinity Versus Femininity (MAS) also referred to as “Tough Versus Tender” (Hofstede Insight, 2019) cultures because both societies are different in comparison to each other. The masculinity culture defines a society that is competitive and only focuses on ‘characteristics including: achievement, material rewards and wealth building’. (Hofstede Insight, 2019) On the other hand, the femininity culture defines a society that is considerate because they are more focused on the quality of life and is always trying to create the best outcome. (Hofstede Insight, 2019)

The fifth dimension Long Term versus Short Term Orientation (LTO) was based on Hofstede’s findings and research in Asia. The Long Term Orientation refers to a society that focuses on the future. If the culture scores high, this would imply that it is a Long Term Orientation society. This highlights on the fact that the society is futuristic and believe in long-term growth (Corporate Finance Institute, 2019) whereas the Short Term Orientation is the opposite. This society focuses on the ‘short term effects’ and has a stronger ‘emphasis on the present’. (Corporate Finance Institute, 2019)

Lastly, Michael Minkov a Bulgarian linguist and Hofstede both discovered the last dimension Indulgence versus Restraint (IVR). Since this dimension was added quite recently, there is not a big range of data to conclude with. (Mind Tools, 2019) Furthermore, this dimension is focused on the theme of happiness and the freedom of life control. Having a high Indulgence means the society has ‘free gratification’ (Hofstede Insight, 2019) meaning people can enjoy life without having to follow any social norms. Overall, people are generally happier and optimistic. On the other hand, having a low restraint is the opposite as the culture ‘suppresses gratification’. (Hofstede Insight, 2019) People would have to follow strict regulations through social norms and be controlled.

In summary by understanding Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory, it would benefit global brands because each dimension will show an estimated summary and overview of what other cultures are like in different countries. Therefore, business’ can use this as a guide to see what is expected in each country.

1.3 Consumer Behaviour and Reception (Ian Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning)

Consumer behaviour is a study that focuses on the psychological experience of when the individual is selecting, thinking and purchasing a product. It also refers to the satisfaction of the individual’s needs and desires after their purchase. Other factors may also affect the individual’s behaviour. (Solomon, 2006) Understanding consumer behaviour is important because it allows the marketers to learn more about the consumer in order to market products effectively. (Quora, 2018) Moreover during the 1940s, Ian Pavlov who was a Russian physiologist studied and conducted experiments relating to the animal’s digestive system. (Leahey, 1985, pg.23) Pavlov was interested in the change of behaviour in animals. He experimented with his own dogs and conducted an experiment by conditioning the dog’s mind by giving food to the dog each time a bell is rang in order to trigger certain stimuli’s from the dog. He then measured the change in behaviour of the dog depending on the level of saliva that was produced. The saliva was measured through a tube, which was inserted into the dog’s mouth. (Mazur, 2017, pg.57) This concept is known as classical conditioning. This theory is also known as the ‘Pavlovian conditioning’. (Psychologist World, 2016) Classical Conditioning is split into four main components including: Unconditioned Stimulus (US), Unconditioned Response (UR), Conditioned Stimulus (CS) and Conditioned Response (CR) (Leahey, 1985, pg.24) In Pavlov’s dog experiment he incorporated food and bells in his research. The food in this case was the Unconditioned Stimulus (US) as it ‘automatically provoked a reaction’ whereas the Unconditioned Response (UR) comes from the automatic reaction caused by the US. The response was the dog’s salivation by seeing the food. (Exploring your mind, 2018) Linking back to Pavlov’s experiment, the sound of the ringing bell that was rung before giving the dog food was the Conditioned Stimulus (CS). Having the CS by itself does not trigger any sort of response hence, its paired with the US in order to create a conditioned response. (Exploring your mind, 2018) Thus, the Conditioned response (CR) is the dog salivating after the sound of the bell however, this would only occur after conditioning. (Mazur, 2017,pg.57)

Since Pavlov experimented on animals and not humans, this theory is still relevant to human as behaviorists moved on to “study or theorise about human conditioning.” (Leahey, 1985, pg.22) Classical Conditioning is also accepted in “consumer behavior literature as a mechanism producing advertising effects”. (Pornpitakpan, 2012) Moreover, classical conditioning can also be associated with brands due to the consumer’s previous experience with the products. It states “consumers receive verified experiences with brands, a conditioned response is possible”. (Husson University, 2019) This indicates that a conditioned response can be triggered. The advertisement trigger would activate the decision process influencing a consumer’s decision making when comparing products to purchase. (BBA, 2017)

Bibliography

Internet Sources:

  1. BBA (2017) Ten Consumer Behaviour Models. Available at: https://bbamantra.com/consumer-behaviour-models/ (Accessed: 1st November 2019).
  2. Communicaid (2019) Indulgence vs. Restraint- The 6th Dimension. Available at: https://www.communicaid.com/cross-cultural-training/blog/indulgence-vs-restraint-6th-dimension/
  3. Corporate Finance Institute (2019) Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory – Overview. Available at: https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/other/hofstedes-cultural-dimensions-theory/
  4. Creative Bloq (2018) The Designer’s Guide to Gestalt Theory. Available at: https://www.creativebloq.com/graphic-design/gestalt-theory-10134960#02-continuation
  5. Exploring Your Mind (2018) Ivan Pavlov and the Theory of Classical Conditioning. Available at: https://exploringyourmind.com/ivan-pavlov-theory-classical-conditioning/ (Accessed: 1st November 2019).
  6. Geert Hofstede (2019) Michael Minkov. Available at: https://geerthofstede.com/related-scientists/michael-minkov/
  7. Hofstede Insights (2019) The 6 Dimensions of National Culture. Available at: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/models/national-culture/
  8. Husson University (2019) Consumer Behavior Theories: Pavlovian Theory. Available at: https://online.husson.edu/consumer-behavior-pavlovian-theory/(Accessed: 1st November 2019).
  9. Mind Tools (2019) Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Understanding Different Countries. Available at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_66.htm
  10. Psychologist World (2016) Pavlov’s Dogs: How Classical Conditioning Informs Our Behavior. Available at: https://www.psychologistworld.com/behavior/pavlov-dogs-classical-conditioning (Accessed: 1st November 2019).
  11. Quora (2018) What is the Importance of Consumer Behavior in Marketing?. Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-importance-of-consumer-behavior-in-marketing (Accessed: 29th October 2019).
  12. The Interaction Design Foundation (2019) Gestalt Principles. Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/gestalt-principles
  13. User Testing Blog (2019) 7 Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception. Available at: https://www.usertesting.com/blog/gestalt-principles/

Books:

  1. Boeing, M. (2013) Analysis of Cultural Differences and their effects on Marketing products in the United States of America and Germany: A Cultural Approach to Marketing using Edward T. Hall and Geert Hofstede. Hamburg: Anchor of Academic Pub.
  2. Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture’s Consequences International Differences in Work-Related Values, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills: London
  3. Hofstede, G, H. (1991) Cultures and Organizations. London: McGraw-Hill
  4. Hollis, N. (2010) The Global Brand. New York; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  5. Leahey, T.H. & Harris, R.J. (1985) Human Learning, Prentice-Hall
  6. Lidwell, W. Holden K., Butler, J. (2010) Universal Principles of design, Revise and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design. Rockport Pubishers, Inc.
  7. Mazur, J.E. (2017) Learning and Behavior. 8th edn. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
  8. Solomon, M.R. (2006) Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective. 3rd edn. Harlow, England: Prentice Hall

Journal Articles:

  1. Chinese Culture Connection (1987). ‘Chinese Values and the Search for Culture Free Dimensions of Culture’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol.18, pp. 143-164. doi: 10.1177/0022002187018002002
  2. Guberman, S. (2017) ‘Gestalt Theory Rearranged: Back to Wertheimer’, vol.8, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01782
  3. Klaes, E., Laura, N., Rieck, K., Xie, F., Gerhardt, T. (2015) How relevant are Hofstede’s Dimensions for Inter-cultural studies? ‘A replication of Hofstede’s research among current international business students’, Research in Hospitality Management, 5(2), pp.187-198. doi: 10.1080/22243534.2015.11828344
  4. Kohler, W. (1942) ‘Kurt Koffka 1886-1941’, 49(2), pp.97-101. doi: 10.1037/h0054684.
  5. Minkov, M. Hofstede, G. (2012) ‘Hofstede’s Fifth Dimension: New Evidence From the World Values Survey’, Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 43(1), pp. 3-14, doi: 10.1177/0022022110388567
  6. Pornpitakpan, C. (2012) ‘A Critical Review of Classical Conditioning effects on consumer behavior’, Australasian Marketing Journal, 20(4), pp.282-296, doi: 10.1016/j.ausmj.2012.07.002
  7. Wong, B. (2010) ‘Points of View: Gestalt Principles (Part 1)’, 7(11), pp.863. doi: 10.1038/nmeth110-863.

Newsletter:

  1. SIETAREUROPA, (2010) ‘Geert Hofstede An interview with a Pioneer in Cross Cultural Studies’, pg.2.

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