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Facebook Art: words ON images vs. images AND words

Facebook art, the posting of inspirational quotes together with photos or illustrations, is a very popular sport on Facebook. I do it myself. I see a lot of typographical imagery that is great, where the two elements, words and images, work very well together. Creating true Facebook Art!

I also see expressions where they try to kill each other.

The result of this war between the content elements is that they weaken their respective messages, neither is exposed at its very best, and the impact of both is very much lost.

Let’s say that you are very fond of trees. (I am too!)
And then you come across this nice little poem by Joyce Kilmer 1886–1918
Many people know and love this poem:

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Let’s say you get inspired to turn this poem, or preferably parts of it, into a piece of Facebook art, illustrating the text with a lovely picture of a tree.

OK, so you look into your camera, your phone or where ever you have images stored.

(If you turn to the web, typing the word «tree» into the search-field in Google and ask it to return an image result, the pictures that turn up are NOT free for your grabbing, and you may only do so at your own peril. Shoot or buy your own images! Or search for image banks that ARE in fact free. More about this in another blogpost!)

Now we presume you have found THIS image of a tree.

Nice tree
It’s a great image. I can almost hear the sound of the wind in the leaves and feel the sun blinking through them.

But where is the poor poem to go?

OK – I will fix that, you think, I will just give the text some outlined stroke or shadow or something that is available in all the modern software we use. The result looks like this:

Facebook Art - Bad Text Example
Is this Facebook art?

Now ask yourself these two things:
1. Is the image as good as it was before you put the text on top of it?
NO – most of the great feeling we got from looking at this image is gone.

2. Do the lines from the poem make the same strong impression on you as when they were set against the calm background of the white paper?
NO – we almost have to struggle to read the text.

Could this have been done in a better way, to honor both image and text?

Yes, but I think you would want to look for another picture, with room for the text to be set in a proper way.

Typography, i.e the letterforms, are themselves small pieces of art.
Someone has in fact drawn them!
In this case, the letterforms were created by Carol Twomblytogether with Robert Slimbach.
These letters need to be set against a calm background for us to be able to distinguish their different forms and read them with ease and pleasure.

Text can be strengthened and enhanced by images.
Images can be strengthened and enhanced by text.

But each need to send their own message clearly and undisturbed for this to happen. Let’s not give in, but find a new image instead.

tree against calm background
In this image, the tree stands out clearly from a calm background of blue skies and some thin summer clouds. We have a canvas for our letters! It is not necessary to have the entire tree in the image to give the observer the clear idea of «a tree», so we will put the tree to the left in our Facebook art and allow for even more room for the poem:

text and image helps each other
This looks better, I think. Now the text and the image of the tree are helping each other to give the reader an enhanced experience. This principle of letting the image and text do their best work within their own «limitations», is really not a limitation at all. Creativity thrives within borders! When you learn to think in this way, it will not only help your Facebook art, but your Powerpoint presentations, ads and any other visual expression you create. As you can see, the «graphic design» DIY-tools overflowing the market, are of no use to you what so ever, if you don’t have some basic knowledge about typography and form.
I am happy to share my graphic design knowledge and skills with you!

Good Luck on your
Facebook art!

 – let me know how you’re doing!


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