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GIF shenanigans

Welcome back to another designer's soup. We recorded this edition at the PW studio in Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka. Below I'll be discussing the GIF. Particularly three attributes: its potential to evoke strong emotions, opportunities to strengthen common ties within a group, and add meaning to a message.

Welcome to another designer's soup; on this episode, we are talking about GIFs.

I'm going to refer to it as a GIF ( opposed to a JIF).

They take an emotion that you're trying to communicate and it can stretch it, exaggerate it, and make it more complex. It allows for more sophisticated forms of communication with just one image; if you're like me, and think in imagery, you might find (writing) time-consuming or even difficult to articulate in words.

An image like this (GIF example) allows us to communicate strong feelings without having to use any words. When you consider visuals or messaging in terms of evocative emotion, (GIFs) can add a layer, and sophistication (like the gift does in this case) by contextualizing and reinforcing the meaning of the message.

GIFs also reference other stories. They are in fact a citation or simply a clip from an existing story. They are a form of meme; by definition an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users. Because of its viral quality, it can also illustrate popular ideas and trends. (for example...) When you open up WhatsApp or any messaging application with built-in GIFs; look at what GIFs are trending. Usually, these are the GIFs that appear first when the tool is selected. These trending GIFs illustrate the general emotional state or the ideas that are most popular at that time. So if you use a popular GIF, you are referencing a popular thought. And I think that connects you with others. When shared, they can demonstrate similar views, shared perceptions, and common interests. They become symbols of a stronger connection within a group. If your objective is to grow loyalty within a group, for example, if a business is attempting to connect with a customer segment, an appropriate GIF can tap into a general idea of a group of people.

A third attribute of the GIF is its scope for meaning. I've used GIFs to inform a client that we (PW Studio) haven't received their payment. As a text-based message, there are often misinterpretations and in my case, it can be difficult to draft a syntax in a way that is appropriate. Finding the right words and tone of voice that is on brand with my business's way of articulating, while also being sensitive to the client or customer is time-consuming for me.

A lot of how we communicate involves body language, eye contact, or other facial features; we pick up on these signals when we're talking face-to-face with someone either subconsciously or consciously. If someone is sitting a certain way or leaning forward, we have a tendency to lean back or we might lean forward in order to create more intimacy. These are helpful signs are not present in a conversation that entirely text-based; GIFs supplement this dialogue through these three attributes: emotional tone, commonality, and contextual meaning.

Food thought…

Alain Parizeau

Director, Public Works


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