Mixed Emotions

Conveying emotions through images can be challenging because the viewer may not understand the feeling that it is trying to be shared. The key to getting emotion is through a story; images need to have a story that belongs to it, whether the viewer creates that story or if the object within the image is creating the viewer’s story. This is easier to accomplish through film because we see the entire story unfold. Another way to express an emotion through an image is through color theory. Colors have a large impact on emotion and feeling.

There are two perspectives in design; the designer and the audience member. The designer controls what emotion they want to display in their medium, but only the audience member can decide what they feel when they see it. Emotions are a direct result of a creation, however designers cannot control how an audience member feels. They can only try their hardest to portray an emotion in their work. This is why I chose two images that portray an emotion, however when I look at it, I feel a different emotion to the one that is portrayed.

Credit: Photo by Katie Jones/Variety/REX/Shutterstock (9982486ao) Chadwick Boseman Variety Actors on Actors, Day 2, Los Angeles, USA – 18 Nov 2018

This is a still of an interview that Chadwick Boseman did in 2018. Based on Plutchik’s wheel of emotions it can be deciphered that Boseman looks happy and seems to be laughing, conveying the emotion of joy to the audience. However, looking at this picture I do not feel joy or happiness. I feel sadness, grief, and admiration. I think about all of the amazing things Boseman has done with his career in acting, and his life in general. I feel these things because even though Boseman looks happy, he recently died due to cancer and he was an inspiration to thousands of people world wide. I chose this image because it triggered emotions from Plutchik’s emotional wheel. It also makes me wonder about his life and why he decided to keep his cancer a secret, and what he would have accomplished if he hadn’t passed away.

Letterboxd – Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

This is a still from the film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which is a biographical crime film about Ted Bundy. This image portrays a family moment of them laughing, and Ted Bundy teaching his daughter how to ride a bike with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall. The emotion from Plutchik’s wheel they are conveying is joy, happiness, and esctasy. However, when I look at this image I don’t feel that. I feel angry, disgust, and loathing towards Ted Bundy, or Zac Efron in this image, because of all the horrible things he did to women. I feel disapproval towards Elizabeth Kendall, or Lily Collins in this image, because she is dating a serial killer, even though she didn’t know that he was in that moment. These are all emotions from Plutchik’s wheel of emotions.

These two images above are an example of how emotions conveyed in images aren’t always the same emotion the audience member will evoke. Other individuals may look at these images and feel different emotions than I did, and that is inherently normal. We all bring our own ideology, and experiences when we look at art, and that is why many individuals don’t see the same thing when looking at the same piece of art.


Cao, Jerry. “Web Design Color Theory: How to Create the Right Emotions with Color in Web Design.” The Next Web, 11 June 2018, thenextweb.com/dd/2015/04/07/how-to-create-the-right-emotions-with-color-in-web-design/.

Norman, Donald A. DESIGNERS AND USERS: TWO PERSPECTIVES ON EMOTION. projectsfinal.interactionivrea.org/2004-2005/SYMPOSIUM 2005/communication material/DESIGNERS AND USERS_Norman.pdf.

“Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.” The Interaction Design Foundation, http://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/putting-some-emotion-into-your-design-plutchik-s-wheel-of-emotions.

3 thoughts on “Mixed Emotions

  1. This was a really interesting way to examine the contradiction of emotion in presentation in response. In both cases, the happy images become sad when placed in context. It’s also crazy how much time can shape this, too. A few weeks ago, that photo of Chadwick Boseman smiling would simply evoke happiness. Years and years ago, in the timeline of real life, Ted Bundy’s happy family would simply look like a happy family. Death has changed our perception of both of these images, after the passage of time, in two wildly different ways.
    This post could be improved by naming and analyzing the relationship between the emotions expressed. You could also expand on color theory, and how color impacts our response to each image.
    I love that you added a personal layer to what could otherwise be very abstract, unrelatable characters.


  2. Hi Kim! I love love love the two visuals you chose. I didn’t think a photograph like the one of Chadwick Boseman could have two different emotions. However, it totally does. Your explanation opened my eyes to how even a photo that seems straightforward can mean so many different things. The second visual from Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile gave me chills. They look so happy, but we know that the man is a literal serial killer. Awesome job!


  3. Hi Kim!

    I thought the pictures you used were great in making us feel contradictory emotions to what is being presented. If you wanted to expand more on how we feel differently about both images because of the knowledge we have from life and culture, you could try mentioning the top down theory of perception. Other than that, I thought you made excellent points about the photos make us feel sad or disappointed as opposed to happy.


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