Images as Provocative Mirrors

Images as Provocative Mirrors

Images can inform, shock and delight. We are assaulted by 1,000’s of images daily on paper, in the streets, and mostly through our devices. The advertising industry has mastered the art of illusion in order to persuade and manipulate us with smoke and mirrors. In Almost Happy we have developed images to confront, amuse and hopefully transform some people.

All the images are created within a circle shape, a universal symbol for the whole. When an image or message is contained within a circle, it is perceived as complete. What is written and depicted penetrates consciousness far more effectively than if the same message was contained within a rectangle or square. A circle shape has its own symmetry and balance; it has a heartbeat; it is atomic; it is universal; it is simultaneously in motion and in stillness. It is show-stopping.

Dr. M.L. von Franz explains the circle (or sphere) as a symbol of the Self, expressing the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship between man and the whole of nature. It is the first creative mark-making of the young child attempting to draw the human face. “Whether the symbol of the circle appears in primitive sun worship or modern religion, in myths or dreams, in the mandalas drawn by Tibetan monks, in the ground plans of cities, or in the spherical concepts of early astronomers, it always points to the single most vital aspect of life – its ultimate wholeness.”1  Humans are always striving towards this wholeness in different ways, to be well-rounded, to feel complete, to connect the dots, to end where we started - and these themes permeate literature, theology and philosophy.

The buttons were developed over many years and new digital technology enabled us to generate designs that were not possible in the 1990s. The choices of fonts and upgrades in photoshop allowed us to be very specific in the messages we were trying to communicate. Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ was the guideline in that the design had to communicate the message as fully and completely as possible. Interestingly McLuhan frequently punned on the word "message", changing it to "mass age", "mess age", and "massage"2 , all of which are apposite to Almost Happy.

The circular forms are mostly echoes of familiar circles seen in everyday life. These include: the human face (almost happy, easy does it, bald & virile, emo, pretty privileged); the street sign (talent free zone, no entry); the wheel (on a roll soon, can’t decide, psyclist); the world (@herenow, @nowhere, news fiend); bathroom scales (on diet); the electric switch (push me); the watch face (can’t talk now); a dial (dedicated commuter, dicey heart); a bullet hole (armed & dangerous); a camera lens (I spy); a medallion (superior person, noble victim, horny recluse); a magnifying glass (why me).

Transcending graphic design, these images are both symbolic and real. These buttons (USA) and badges (UK) actually exist. Of 25mm diameter, they can be collected and worn to remind and reinforce the message therein. Thus there is a relationship between graphics and objects, ‘I like to see it but scared to/won’t wear it’ or ‘I like to see it and am delighted to wear it’. This in itself stimulates the internal conversation reflected in the theme of the button.

Flicking through the pages and seeing 114 repetitive circles as buttons can be hypnotic and it is in this very trance that the subliminal messages contained within begin to ferment and take effect. When a button is one of ‘your buttons’, you may find yourself jolted or frozen; in the click of connection with the button, you are awoken from your trance and the mirrored-pattern interruption process is activated. This can lead to that ‘Aha’ moment of resonance. If you recognise yourself in one of these provocative two dimensional graphic images, imagine how the rest of us may see you in 3-D!

Hephzibah Kaplan


1.  Jung, C. Man and his symbols (Aldus books Ltd. 1964) P.240





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