Depict the Problem in Grayscale

Visual contrast feels like semantic contrast.

Nick Kolenda
Updated on
A fitness ad that shows versions of before and after using the product. The before version is in black and white.

Infomercials are notorious for this technique.

You see footage of somebody needlessly struggling with an ordinary task. Then bam. You see another person solving this problem with a better product.

But have you noticed that the “before” scenario is usually black and white? Advertisers want these two scenarios to look visually different. I call it contrast fluency. Viewers confuse visual contrast for semantic contrast: Hmm, something seems different. The product must make a big difference.

Therefore, degrade the color or visual quality of the “problem” framing.