1966 Ford Fairlane - Lengthening stripes.

There are loads of places on the web to read about Ford Fairlanes and how super bitchin' it was and great it would be to find a mint example in a barn blah blah whatever. All true, and done to death. This post is about what a good looking ad this is.
Mostly, the layout here is about asymmetry. Big graphical feature on the right (the stripes) offset by the huge black negative space on the left (the huge black negative space). Not much going on at the top of the frame (geometric shapes), but lots of interest focused at the bottom (car and babe).

Asymmetry can be an acquired taste. When your brain is left on autopilot, or if you're a toddler, it will tend to line things up in the middle, so that the left and right sides of a design are nearly mirror images of each other. This is sometimes beautiful (the Taj Mahal, if that's your thing), but very often it's boring as hell. Asymmetry is a mild irritant to your eye, but handled skillfully, it can be infinitely more compelling and interesting than just centering everything along the prime meridian and calling yourself a genius. If you want, you can make an analogy to seasoning in food. Eat a spoonful of curry powder, and you may never want to eat anything again. Eat a plate of Chicken Tikka Masala and the idea of ever using your mouth for anything but eating Chicken Tikka Masala may seem like madness.

In second year art, you learn a few things about balance. The long and the short of it is that, even if a composition is not completely symmetrical, there can still be perceptual balance. Five small squares can have the same visual weight as one huge square. Stuff like that. And so, you can have balance without symmetry.

In this ad, the top area of the image can be said to be balanced, even though it's not symmetrical. The visual detail of the black and white stripes on the right has about the same presence as the huge black area on the left. Neither can be ignored by your eye. The same goes for top-to-bottom balance here. Loads of detail at the bottom, contrasted against not-much-going-on at the top. Your eye is drawn both to detail and to large simple shapes. The fact that both are presented here in heaping helpings keeps your eye running laps around the page. Starting at the car, you may run up the right side, following the stripes and dive into the black space. But then you notice the little white figure of the woman poking up into it, so you go and check her out. The leads you back to car territory, to repeat the whole thing again until you get bored and turn the page, or run out and buy a Fairlane.

At least, that's the hope of the manufacturer.

Click for big.


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