Formal Analysis – By @AlyRadia93

By Alysha Radia


Formal Analysis

I switch almost daily between whether I’d consider myself a pure copywriter, a half and half or an art director. 

I know in reality everyone is both to some extent, but most people’s hearts seem to lie with one or the other. But I can honestly say that I find it almost impossible to choose and kind of don’t want to. People look at my CV, or my LinkedIn if you’re weird, and see that I went to art school for a year and did an Art History degree, and assume that therefore I’m an art director. But there’s a reason I hated art school and decided to focus my appreciation of the arts on the words that those very art forms inspire and inform.

Art history, and its cousins art criticism and art journalism, are beautiful and synergistic practices treading the line where the visual meets the verbal. People ask me what I’m doing with my life, post art history degree, and whether I’m doing anything relevant, and I normally answer – ‘Well, I guess I am, yes, because isn’t art history the study of thousands of years of persuasive imagery?’ (Ok, I don’t say exactly that because then I would come across as a pretentious snob, but I ineloquently mumble something thereabouts). What I like about Art History, and the way it demonstrates the power of the word in influencing perception of an image, and vice versa, is exactly why I find it hard to pledge allegiance either to words or to the arts in advertising. 

I’m feeling like I’m gradually forgetting most of what I learnt during those four years, however. Which is a shame. One of my favourite practices when doing my degree, and an essential part of an art historians arsenal, is that of formal analysis. A formal analysis piece is a piece that examines a work of art from a purely visual perspective, without little or no contextual information. The viewer is meant to glean information purely from what they see, and from basic information like the date and the name of the artist. I much preferred these exercises to the research led essays that we also wrote, because it felt like I was really getting up close and personal with the essence of a work of art, that is, it in its pure form. We unknowingly do it fairly often at SCA when we watch adverts, scrutinising them to uncover the strategies, intentions and methods behind them, and our opinions of their efficacy. 

This SCAB is a declaration of intent – that I am going to bring the practice back into my life, with random works of art and maybe with some advertising (but are they not one and the same, I hear you cry??) as often as I can. I am someone that finds it very hard to write freely just about ‘stuff’, without some sort of prior stimulus. I feel like returning to my academic *roots* in the context of advertising might be a great way to get me writing more often, honing my chops both as a copywriter, both with the practice of frequent writing and in pairing words with images, and as an art director by getting me back into the zone of analysing the aesthetics of the greats.

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