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Using Double Exposure Imagery for Deeper Meaning in Design

Double exposure effects help the APAF design support complex mental health topics.

When I’m sitting down to begin a design for one of our clients at BlueKey, I’m always looking for opportunities to find and use imagery in a way that supports the goals of the brand.

Bull TV show double exposure ad

One recurring brand challenge in 2017 was the goal of showing and using imagery to relate a complex or sensitive issue too multidimensional for a single image to completely express. This also came up for topics that aren’t, shouldn’t, or are just extra difficult to be portrayed visually. One such example was one client’s need for imagery or graphics representing the page topic of mental health in prisons, obviously an area with potential for unjust stereotyping or misrepresentation. 

When tackling some of these issues in recent projects, I went looking for inspiration, specifically searching for ways heavy, dramatic, or serious subjects were conveyed in movies, TV, and other websites. I began to notice a few standout TV shows that had recently used the concept of double exposure to combine two or more images into a single view or shape. In many cases, this was helping to give the viewer a sense for supporting characters through the lens of the main one, or giving added context to the subject of the show or movie.

True Detective TV show double exposure ad

Working on the American Psychiatric Association Foundation website, the goal was to show the depth and importance of mental health programming, increasing awareness for the APA Foundation’s work and encouraging donor support. Mental health issues and the people that suffer from them already battle an unjust stigma, so the imagery used needed to express the subject in a way that was interesting and modern, but inclusive and respectful.

For the APA Foundation website, we applied the double exposure style to images of people: students, psychiatrists, members of the community all shown with extra depth and context. In this case, our client also had some strict photo guidelines to follow, and the double exposure overlay helped to avoid things like direct, head-on showing of faces.double exposure image of student with classroom background overlay

Combining these images gives the viewer or website visitor a feeling that there is more to the photo, person, or idea than just the visual. In this way, the double exposure helps portray human quality and commonness of mental illness, precisely why the programs of the APA Foundation are so impactful and important to support. 

Joe Rusenko
Art Director & Beer Barista
Clare Sweeney
Content Strategist & World Traveler
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