Friday, November 11, 2011

President Michael D. Higgins - an election poster perspective

So today our new president of Ireland is inaugurated and I truly wish him well.

We are all quite aware of course that there were very many factors involved in the great success of Michael D. Higgins in the election. In this short article I just wanted to share my impressions from a marketing perspective on the interesting design features of the Michael D. Higgins promotional posters on display around the country during the campaign.

I was struck by some very subtle but clever aspects of what seems quite a simple poster...

1. The word "President" in the caption is very large and prominently placed across Michael D. Higgins' chest. Great visual psychology - the viewer synchronises the title with the man - it's as if he is already the president...we visualise it strongly.

2. His body is in a full facing position, his hands and eyes are reaching out to you and he has a trusting open smile. He looks stately and somebody who just might do us proud.

3. The photo is taken from a lower position and he comes across more imposingly, as if he is talking from a presidential platform. We are looking up to him physically and in spirit, he looks like our leader. You could argue that they are falsely making him taller looking but I think the podium impression is strong and honest.

4. The "Michael D" part of the name is larger than the "Higgins" - a play on how he is affectionately known to many - and it's a warmer, friendlier presentation of the man exuding a familiar first name trust.

5. The caption itself is beautifully simple and to the point of what most of us want from the role... "The President who will do us proud". Note also the "will" word...not "can". Very strong indeed - again we are visualising him as already the president.

6. As a facial photo of Michael D it is honest. He looks like he does on TV, a warm elderly grey haired balding man. This helps to disarm the viewer and opens them to absorb even more the subtle messages hitting home in 1-5 above.

Posters are not everything of course, but they are important and I do compliment whoever designed this one. Those responsible for the posters of some of the other losing candidates could do well to learn something in hindsight from his clever piece of work.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Eve of St. Agnes - Harry Clarke's Greatest Collection

Back in 1981 I recall visiting the National Gallery in Dublin's Parnell Square. I walked into a dark room and unexpectedly witnessed the most beautiful and profound works of art I had ever seen. In this tranquil darkness was a stunning sequence of backlit stain glass panels depicting the story in the John Keats poem "The Eve of St. Agnes". At the time I knew nothing of the genius behind the works - Irish artist Harry Clarke. I was mesmerised by the deep colours and especially his use of rich light and dark blue tones. The figures and details in each panel moved me so much. I loved the immersion and challenge of studying the intriguing fable unfolding in each image. I was in a surreal fairlytale world from a different era.

At the time I was a keen photographer and was particularly enjoying slide photography. I instantly knew that these wonderful stain glass images would look amazing blown up on a big projection screen. Slide photography really shows off the fine subtle colour variations in dark images.

I will spare readers details of the efforts I made in the following months via contacts to get permission to photograph "The Eve of St. Agnes" collection. Sadly it didn't happen.

Today my love of Harry Clarke's stained glass was rekindled at my local library. I have out on loan a beautifully illustrated large book called "Strangest Genius - the stained glass of Harry Clarke" by Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen. It's a terrific book and has revitalised my love of the magical Eve of St. Agnes and indeed all of Harry Clarke's stain glass art. Many of his other works appear in churches throughout Ireland.

As I write I'm amused at the serendipity that today, 20th January, actually is the eve of the feast of St Agnes! You should Google the intriguing legend relating to the Eve of St. Agnes - all to do with maidens going to sleep and having visions of their future husband. The John Keats poem of same name is very worthy of a read and of course Harry Clarke is following the storyline of the poem in this stained glass art collection.