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fig: 1.1 Subliminal Influence (Winstanley, L. 2014)

The subliminal influence of graphic design has always fascinated me. I believe, as designers, we are wielders of this substantial power but are often unaware of how the decisions we make graphically, can manipulate, entice or even repulse.

As a packaging designer of over 10 years my designs were used as a platform to manipulate consumers into buying products that they perhaps didn’t need or even want, so my initial interest in this area stemmed from the purely practical requirement of knowing what sells.

The main intent of my project is to visually explore how the subliminal can be used to cast doubt on the sincerity of truths and to manipulate the belief of falsities.

There are two primary theoretical research points which this study plans to investigate:

  • What constitutes a lie or determines a truth.
    Perspective/perception: a white lie, a purposeful lie, fake positive, fake negative,
    self deception, altruistic lies, pathological lies, half truths, etc.Deception.
    How can one be persuaded or manipulated subliminally by visual artifacts.
    An Investigation of techniques and methodology.

The study of semiotics, psychology and ethics will play large roles in attempting to answer these questions. This project intends to investigate the use of archetypal imagery as a means of subliminal influence; thus research is needed in to the psychology of the collective unconscious and as to how those preconceptions are determined.

Regarding practice based research, I intend to explore the potential of creating artistic representations of deceptions and truths using subliminal visual influences to be determined by the theoretical findings, in order to persuade and/or manipulate the viewer into making decisions pertaining to the artwork.

The concept revolves around the creation of two books; a book of truth and a book of lies. The title of each book will remain ambiguous with the viewer left to ascertain which is which, based on their personal interpretation of the images, typography, colour and the elements and principles of design.

Each of the books will contain 12 chapters based on the 12 fundamental archetypes which are then subdivided into 3 sections The Ego, The Soul and The Self. Each chapter will focus on a particular lie or truth but each using the same wording. For example: the first lie may be, ‘I love you,’ but this would also be the first truth. The difference being how they are treated graphically, one book being minimal and the other far more opulent and illustrative; allowing the viewer to investigate their own preconceived notions of deception, thus forcing a dialogue of questioning and examination.

I plan to divide the project up into 8 stages, some of which will run concurrently:
Stage 1:
Defining What constitutes a lie & investigating various techniques and methodologies of deception
Stage 2:
Researching the archetypes and how they can play a subliminal role in this project (inclusive of psychology, ethics and semiotics)
Stage 3:
Applying research findings to creative project
Stage 4:
Test/evaluate and refine
Stage 5:
Prepare research methodology for examining success of the books ie. Was it possible to decipher which was a lie which was the truth based on aesthetics?
Stage 6:
Begin final designs for books
Stage 7:
Plan/curate exhibition
Stage 8:
Evaluate data from research and conclude
Below is an action plan outlining the thought process behind this project.

proposal structure

fig: 1.2 Action Plan (Winstanley, L. 2014)


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