The Look Of The Thing

The Look Of The Thing


I have owned a few motor cars in my life – and lots of cameras. The difference in those numbers is partly due to the capital cost of  vehicles compared to photo stuff. But partly it is due to the look of the things.

You see, I respond to design details more than overall concepts. I suspect everyone does to some extent. I bought a French motor car because of the seats – and because of a sales diagram that showed a four-wheel independent suspension with 4 disc brakes. I bought a Leica camera because it had a chrome silver lens. I gloried in these things and they satisfied my soul until they wore out and were replaced.

I bought a German car based in the colour of the paint – and a Swiss camera based on the brushed metal of the top plate. Both were disasters. To this day I have not spent another penny with either manufacturer.

I suspect a lot of people have had this same experience – and that the chiefest aim of the advertisers should be to find a salient visual point that hooks the eye of the customer, no matter how small that hook. The rear fender line on the 1952 Chevrolet…the rounded end on the Leica camera…the BMW twin grille…the silver body of the Fujifilm X-100V. The sellers might not shout it out loudly, but they are wise to picture it and picture it well.

Of course there is a lot of the sexy play-acting at work as well – the advertisement that sells some piece of overweight aluminium by dint of showing a dark haired male model with a three-day growth of beard and a scarf around his neck – looking European and adventurous in some picturesque hell hole. Or the advertisement that just happens to have the Swedish supermodel in it to sell overpriced aluminium. You can sometimes interchange the actors and the gear.

And a lot of mileage is clocked up with subtle suggestion; the exclusive-I-can-have-it-but-you-can’t car or camera. Generally based upon the concept of I-have-the-money-and-you-do-not, though from what I ‘ve seen tried in the retail camera trade it was sometimes closer to I-can-have-it-because-I-know-the-boss.

In the end I suppose it is inevitable that we will buy the loaf that looks best on the shelf, no matter whether it tastes good or is best nutrition. All we can hope for is that it does not contain too high a percentage of builder’s plaster…

Heading Picture: A Chrysler when they looked like Chryslers.

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