Visible Emotions

We have the ability understand an emotion by the way it looks. Emojis are the perfect way to explain this. We know that a happy face has a smile, we understand that an angry face has furrowed brows, and we understand that a sad face has a frown.

Psychologist Robert Plutchik created a wheel with eight basic emotions and all of the possible mixtures. After looking at Plutchik’s Wheel I wanted to do research on how easily I could find corresponding movie posters to the emotions of serenity, joy, and ecstasy. These three emotions are all part of the same basic emotion of happiness.


Modern Romance

Serenity is known as the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Which I think is being shown in this movie poster. The way their heads are leaning against one another, they are smiling, and they seem to be enjoying each other’s company. Using the Gestalt principle of Proximity, their heads touching and looking down. The words at the top of the movie poster contradict the image. The people are expressing the emotion of serenity but the words “… they broke up” makes it seem like the image should be a different emotion.


The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music movie poster portrays the emotion of joy. Julie Andrews portrayed Maria von Trapp, who is in the foreground of the poster and all of the von Trapp children are running after her laughing and smiling. This poster uses Gestalts principle of Similarity. This can be shown through the kids all wearing yellow clothes to represent that they are are all linked. Marie von Trapp wearing a light colored pink dress adds to the similarity because pink and yellow are colors that represent joy and happiness. Warm colors represent energy. This is a step up from serenity because joy is more visible, while serenity is an emotion that doesn’t have a very outward look compared to joy or ecstasy.


Love Happens

This movie poster portrays ecstasy because both of the individuals in this image have the biggest smiles which can be read as happiness. Now adding in their body language, which also portrays joy, combining them becomes ecstatic. Both of their eyes are closed which can be taken as feeling serenity. The Gestalt principle showcased in this image is Element Connectedness. This principle is shown by their foreheads, and noses touching, Jennifer Anniston’s arms are wrapped around Aaron Eckhart’s neck. They seem to have contact with one another through all of those elements.

All of these movie posters showcase a different intensity of the same emotion. It was interesting to learn that it is quite hard to showcase emotions through movie posters compared to paintings or other illustrations, because the movie poster doesn’t want to give away any information about the film. All three of the images have similarities due to them representing the same emotion. I found that the more intense the emotion was the more other emotions were visible in the image. You could find more than just the one emotion it was portraying.


Busche, Laura. Simplicity, Symmetry and More: Gestalt Theory and the Design Principles It Gave Birth To.

Cao, Jerry. “Web Design Color Theory: How to Create the Right Emotions with Color in Web Design.” The Next Web, 11 June 2018,

“Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.” The Interaction Design Foundation,

2 thoughts on “Visible Emotions

  1. Hi Kim!

    I like that you explored the different components of the emotion of happiness through movie posters. The images you chose expressed the various Gestalt principles very well. I really found it interesting that the third image expressed a combination of joy and serenity to make ecstasy.


  2. Hey Kim! It’s so cool that you used movie posters for this post. I think you did a good job of breaking down each visual and explaining why they fit the emotion you say they do. I learned a lot from your post, good work!


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