02 January 2021

Lessons from jigsaw puzzles

 For the holiday season, this showed up under the Christmas tree:

500 piece jigsaw puzzle, "Winter Friends," with wolf lying in snowy forest looking at red cardinal on tree

It’s going as well as can be expected.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces laid out on table

It occurred to me that puzzles have lessons for posters. Because puzzles tell us about how we make sense of images.

Here’s a slightly cleaner look at the image.

Wolf lying in snowy forest looking at red cardinal on tree

As soon as I saw the image on the box, I joked, “The bird will be the first thing done.” It was the only thing red, and I knew the bright red pieces would stand out in the box. And, as predicted, it was pretty much the first thing done.

Jogsaw puzzle pieces laid out on table

But it’s clear what else got done early on.

The classic way to solve a jigsaw is to start with the edges, because they have the only straight edges.

What do these things tell us? That we are good at detecting and paying attention to contrast. The bird is a contrasting colour. The edges have a contrasting shape.

The next thing that was done was the wolf’s face. This is probably because humans are very attuned to looking for faces. That the eyes are contrasting colours also help.

And after that, the legs got done. I searched for pieces with clear colour splits (that is, half white snow, half fur coloured).

And the moral of the story is: If you want people to pay attention to one particular part of a poster, us contrast – especially colour.

No comments: