Have you ever noticed how you form an image in your mind on how something will look based solely on a description? And then when said “thing” appears, you say “That’s not what I expected.”
That has happened twice today.
I ordered the Tomato and Mozzarella salad for lunch at Panera. Here is the description: Vine ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, onions, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinaigrette over freshly baked focaccia.
What do you picture in your mind?
I pictured a round of focaccia topped with chunks of tomato, mozzarella, onions and basil.
What I received was focaccia that was cut into quarters and placed on their sides topped with many, many quartered tomatoes, way too many slices of red onion, and large cubes of mozarella. The balsamic vinaigrette was served in two small side containers. The salad tasted fine. I ate it at home and added mixed lettuces and removed all the onion. But what I envisioned in my head and what was presented didn’t quite match.
I recently ordered “very fine cut shred” from USBox.com. The smallest quantity available was a 10lb box.
Based on that description, what did you picture in your mind?
Now using my only reference point for shred, I imagined receiving a box filled with bags of shred; maybe 2-3 or 4 bags. I opened the box today and found the entire box filled with shred! The box measures 24″ long by 12″ high by 16″ wide/deep; a “10lb box.” If the shred were any more compact I could pull it out like a hay bale.
I know I’ll have enough shred for years to come.
Whenever these little “discrepancies” happen, I often think about my own work and how I describe it to people. When someone inquires about buying a piece of my art via email, I always send a picture of the item (the exact item or a similar one.) I want to make sure they have a pretty good idea how the piece looks.
I haven’t researched the psychology or physiology behind this but as humans we seem to need a visual representation of whatever it is we intend to buy. If an image isn’t provided, we form one in our heads.
And certainly this isn’t limited to things we buy. Think about the image you form in your head about someone you know by name but have never met. Or how about the behaviors or personality you envision about someone based on a word used to describe them.
Sometimes these discrepancies result in pleasant surprises. Sometimes we are disappointed or turned off.
As you think about how to define your art, think about the visual image you put into the listener’s or reader’s mind. Is it clear enough to give a good idea of what you create? Will it be a pleasant surprise or will they have to remove lots of red onions to get to the good stuff?