Marketers are acutely aware consumers have become more and more attuned to fakery. The promises of politicians, corporations and other authorities are treated with doubt or cynicism. Much time and money is spent to ensure there are no bad news stories lurking inside a brand. Claims need to be bulletproof or run the risk of a Twitter storm.
In our work, our focus is on what ‘authenticity’ looks like. We use semiotics to decode how people interpret design, and to encode the values we need to communicate. In other words, understanding the meaning that signs, symbols and all visual cues are given by culture.
It is particularly interesting to look at the way the depiction of key ingredients - fruit in particular - can undermine much of the effort put into other communications. All too often, the fruit used is best described by the words of fakery - polished, slick, shiny, processed. Imperfections are airbrushed out of sight; appeal is enhanced with digital tricks. Would any owner want their brand or company described in this way? Yet this is the visual message that is being subliminally communicated by packaging. Lovely, perfect, delicious but also fake - and therefore bad. This can become seen in similar narratives around sugar.
While images of ‘authentic’ fruit might look worthy, they are not necessarily brimming with appeal. Victorian-style engravings or ‘warts and all’ photography have an obvious drawback: they just don’t look like they will taste very nice!
So is there a way forward for the designer other than a compromise of fruit that is quite yummy but not very yummy?
By looking at the verbal and visual language around taste and flavour, it is possible to identify ways to communicate without relying only on images of ingredients. Intensity or simplicity can be communicated, for example, through colour or its absence. There are ways to suggest subtlety and complexity that do not require multiple different ingredients to get the message across.
Consumers’ demand for authenticity provides the opportunity to deliver this in more engaging and relevant ways.
Simon Jones is MD of Hart + Jones