Contrast, at its most basic level, is our awareness of adjacent opposites. It is something that our human senses were built to recognize. It is always that unique sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch that causes us to take notice. The stimuli we notice first are those which set themselves apart from the “noise” in our perception.
Imagine the distress you may feel as the smell of burning plastic interrupts an otherwise relaxing evening at home, instantly demanding your attention. Imagine the sound of an ambulance siren, and how it so easily pierces through the drone of urban ambiance. Imagine the ancient bowhunter who catches a sudden, jarring glimpse of bright red drops spilled along the green forest ferns, leading him to his wounded prey. Regardless of whether these contrasts are manmade or natural, our response to them is a very potent mechanism of insight, and it has since become a very useful tool for those of us in the business of advertising and design.
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