The Power of Pictures

As members of the Ingenuity network will know, one of our key aims is to make University of Nottingham research accessible to the local business community. Our latest breakfast event welcomed Dr Mark Rawlinson, Associate Professor in Art History, to explore ‘The Power Of Pictures’ within business communication.  

During Mark’s fascinating talk, he outlined his thoughts on the link between Art History and images in business, including comparing images of yesteryear to more recent campaigns. He explored images as a product of culture and explained that images are not neutral – all images have a number of different connotations.  

Sometimes the connotations others may perceive within an image are beyond your control. Mark shared examples of advertising campaigns where well-intentioned design teams had created images that were perceived by others to be racist, sexist or culturally inappropriate. He speculated that a lack of diversity around the metaphorical drawing board can result in blind spots. In our deadline driven world where it is so important to keep up with the pace of the market and competitors, we can sometimes make rash decisions. Mark cautioned the audience to think carefully about how the images they use in business may be perceived by others, both now and in the future, before publishing any material. Marketing campaigns gone wrong can generate a lot of media attention. 

Many businesses are already acutely aware that consistency in branding is key to maintaining sense of identity. Of course, brands typically have a logo, which is their main source of identity – yet few of us in the audience had heard of the concept of an ‘empty signifier’ before Mark’s talk. Mark cited the example of the Nike logo as an empty signifier that had taken on meaning through repeated association with other culturally meaningful symbols. The swoosh lacked intrinsic meaning in itself, yet has become one of the most recognisable logos in the world today.  

Mark gave us some great insights into things to avoid when using images in your business communication.  

Delegates praised the session for “providing enlightening thoughts” and “the introduction to a new angle of how to market my business”.  

Mark is also hosting a one-day workshop on Thursday 5th July on ‘Harnessing the Power of Pictures for Your Business’, where he will be looking at how we can implement some of his tips into our own companies. Attendance at his breakfast presentation is not a prerequisite, so if you’d like to find out more please click here. 

Our next breakfast event will take place on Tuesday 17th July looking at Design Thinking to Transform Your Business. Don’t miss out, sign up here! 

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