implicit vs. explicit

Finding the right balance of visual stimuli when communicating a brand’s core values.

subtle freshness or ice bucket in your face directness. Choosing the appropriate visuals and balancing them against each other strategically is a constant challenge in visual hierachies.


If information needs to be communicated in a straight forward and direct fashion, striking imagery usually does the job best. Key-visuals on billboards in classical advertising are a great example for this. Reduction and subtlety seems to work best if the design is exposed to a quiet surrounding where competition works on a more subliminal level.


When a lot of information has to be communicated at once, as e.g. in FMCG branding with it’s limited, mostly static on-pack space, things get complex very fast. Working out hierarchy-systems is essential to make a design (system) work. It is especially here, where the combination of implicit and explicit visuals plays a major role.


Let’s imagine a dairy manufacturer plans to launch an organic, fruit-flavored greek yoghurt product-range containing no artificial ingredients and sweeteners aimed at a young, eco- and health-conscious target group. There is a lot of information here to be communicated visually and verbally. Depending on the client’s demands and main focus areas, an information hierarchy is defined which creates a helpful starting point when confronted with more complex design jobs.


The areas of attention can roughly be grouped into:


Brand level: corporate design elements, pre-existing brand hierarchies, design language from other product-ranges.


Product level: product key-visual, freshness & food appeal drivers, organic drivers, origin visuals, etc.


This would allow us to carefully craft an FMCG-design with strategically weighted visual elements. In this process the focus lies on a visual hierarchy of sensitively chosen design elements which all have to lock-in together perfectly in order to achieve the previously defined marketing goals. In our example this might result in: the brand and corporate structure as an anchor for brand recognition (mandatory, brand level, explicit), a spoon with yogurt with a fruit on top (product key-visual, explicit), a brown paper texture or label (eco-friendly/organic, implicit), a small greek looking pattern or icon (origin, implicit), a fresh background color or colored texture (freshness and color coding, implicit), fonts that match the fresh, organic and younger tonality of the product (implicit).


The example shows one way of handling implicit and explicit elements in a complex, more static brand environment.


This system is not limited to static FMCG brnading solutions but can virtually be applied anywhere a lot of information needs to be visually structured.

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