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Tight Cultures Prefer Tight Logos: Semiotics of Space Differs across Cultures

Presented by Dr. Tanvi Gupta, Indian Institute of Management Udaipur, India.

Is space always good in logo design? Does the symbolic meaning of empty space differ across cultures? This webinar will present the findings of an academic research project—recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research—showing how compact logos signal product safety, especially in tight cultures. We analysed over 600 brand logos and ran a series of experiments and digital campaigns to understand the semiotic function of empty space across tight and loose cultures. This presentation will be relevant to researchers and designers who are interested in cross-cultural psychology and visual semiotics.

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Tight Cultures Prefer Tight Logos: Semiotics of Space Differs across Cultures

  1. 1. Tight Cultures Prefer Tight Logos: Semiotics of Space Differs across Cultures Dr Tanvi Gupta Indian Institute of Management Udaipur Festival of NewMR April 2021
  2. 2. Sponsors Communication
  3. 3. Safe Together, Vulnerable Apart: How Interstitial Space in Text Logos Impacts Brand Attitudes in Tight versus Loose Cultures Tanvi Gupta Henrik Hagtvedt Forthcoming at Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) 3
  4. 4. Logos are carriers of brand meaning • Logos are the most salient elements of a brand’s visual identity (Walsh, Page Winterich, & Mittal, 2010) • Companies spend millions of dollars to arrive at the right design for their logo (Davies & Paterson, 2000). • One of the goals of visual branding is to establish and enhance specific brand associations. 4
  5. 5. Design features that cue brand reliability Boundaries (Cutright 2011; Fajardo, et al. 2016) Unambiguous typeface (Hagtvedt 2011) 5 Stable centre of gravity (Rahinel & Nelson 2016) Signaling brand reliability is an important goal of visual branding. Compact vs. Spacious (This paper)
  6. 6. A primal discomfort with empty space based on Aristotle's idea that "nature abhors an empty space." Fear of empty spaces Primitive societies Mortelmans (2005) Worship of empty spaces Civilized societies (higher classes) Empty space serves as a mark of distinction and good taste – created through the civilization process HORROR VACUI AMOR VACUI 6 Consumer response to visual space
  7. 7. White space in advertising = prestige, ease of processing (Pieters, et al. 2007, 2010; Pracejus, et al. 2006, 2013) 7 AMOR VACUI IN ADVERTISING
  8. 8. Interstitial space in product displays = aesthetic appeal, and prestige (Sevilla and Townsend 2016) 8 AMOR VACUI IN RETAIL STORES
  9. 9. 9 But what about space within logos?
  10. 10. 10 Functions of Space Space as Capital Space as Emptiness Signals prestige (Pracejus, et al. 2006, 2013; Sevilla & Townsend 2016) Ease of processing (Pieters, et al. 2007, 2010) AMOR VACUI in advertising and retail Space as Separation HORROR VACUI in logos Signals vulnerability (This paper)
  11. 11. Design elements as abstractions of physical experiences Perceptual forces are counterpart of physical forces (Gestalt theory: Arnheim 1974) Visual characteristics of design elements can inform judgments in ways consistent with physical laws. Shape People prefer visual designs of a curved (rather than angular) nature, since sharp contours in physical objects convey a sense of threat (Bar and Neta 2006, 2007) Products with a product image lower (vs. higher) on the package facade were estimated to be heavier in weight because gravity pulls heavy objects to the ground (Deng and Kahn 2009). Spatial arrangement In everyday life, people use metaphors that tap into concrete physical experiences to describe their abstract psychological experiences. (Lakoff & Johnson 1980) Conceptual Metaphor Theory
  12. 12. Powerful brands – Logo High (Sundar and Noseworthy 2014) Antique vs Modern English vs Hebrew (Chae and Hoegg 2013) Verticality = Power Left/Right = Past/ Future (Jiang, et al. 2015) Angular/Circular Shape = Durability/Comfort Some more examples of visual metaphors
  13. 13. Proximity is strength (separation is vulnerability) 13 Interstitial Space as Separation
  14. 14. Cultural Tightness – Looseness (TL): A Social Adaptation to Threats • Tight (loose) cultures have many (few) strongly enforced social norms and little (much) tolerance for deviance (Gelfand et al. 2011) • Cultural tightness has evolved as a social adaptation to chronic ecological and territorial threats, contributing to chronic states of high perceived risk and need for structure through tight social-systems. • TL at different levels, e.g., state(Harrington and Gelfand 2014), industry(Lin et al. 2017), organization(Aktas et al. 2016), individual(Gelfand et al. 2011) 14 Social tightness ßà Visual tightness
  15. 15. Conceptual Framework Interstitial space in logos Product safety Brand attitude Cultural tightness – looseness (Operationalized via geographical region, organizational culture, or individual trait) Note: Tested with five studies, including an archival dataset analysis, three experiments, and a field study 15
  16. 16. Study 1: Compact vs. Spacious Brand Logos in the Marketplace • Dataset with almost 700 top US national brands across 16 product categories, with Young and Rubicam’s Brand Asset Valuator variables and survey of over 4,700 consumers (Lovett, Peres, and Shachar 2014) • We found, downloaded, and coded images of all logos. Inter-coder reliability was significant (Kappa coefficient = .82). Variables • IV: compact vs. intermediate vs. spacious logo • DV: Brand preference (single measure) • Mediator: Product safety (reliable, secure, trustworthy; α = .74) 16
  17. 17. Examples of compact logos from the dataset 17
  18. 18. Examples of spacious logos from the dataset 18
  19. 19. Results 19 ANOVA: F(2, 551) = 12.33, p < .001 Interstitial space in logos Product safety Brand preference -1.05*** 4.16*** IE= -4.17 (CI95= -6.0673, -2.4423) ***p<.0001 Mediation (PROCESS Model 4): Spacious logos reduce brand preference, mediated by perceived brand reliability.
  20. 20. Study 2: Regional Tightness – Looseness • 2 (logo: compact vs. spacious) x 2 (culture: tight vs. loose) between-subjects experiment 20
  21. 21. Study 3: Individual Tightness – Looseness • 2 (logo: compact vs. spacious) x 2 (culture: tight vs. loose) between-subjects experiment 21
  22. 22. Study 4: Field Experiment - Google Display Campaign 22 DV: Click-through-rate (CTR) from 11,584 impressions Each impression was converted into a binary data point. 2 (logo: compact vs. spacious) x 2 (culture: tight vs. loose) x 2 (ad placement: none vs. safety) between-subjects design Two versions of a website logo TL manipulated via geographic targeting of US states Ad placement manipulated via topics (e.g., insurance, fire safety)
  23. 23. Results 23
  24. 24. Study 5: Replicate three-way effect with controlled experiment 24 2 (logo: compact vs. spacious) x 2 (culture: tight vs. loose) x 2 (product framing: control vs. safety) between-subjects design
  25. 25. Contribution 25 Visual space Cultural Tightness CultureàAesthetics Logo design Brand reliability cues Conceptual metaphor of “Proximity is strength” Visual branding Cross-cultural psychology Cognitive psychology Digital method for visual aesthetics Methodological contribution Design theory
  26. 26. Sponsors Communication
  27. 27. Q & A Dr Tanvi Gupta Indian Institute of Management Udaipur Sue York The Research Society