marketing psychology example shapes diagonals in photos

Diagonals in photos: psychology-led styling

Here’s why you should create diagonals in photos with props, or use natural ones that exist already in the subject. ⁠It’s all about psychology-led styling.⠀

Why use diagonals in photos?

Diagonals make our brains think of change, or moving from one state to another.

We’re used to seeing diagonals in graphs, so the implications of the direction of slope stick with us. ⁠⠀

Diagonals in photos for clothing styling - image shows a turquoise sweatshirt close-up with 3 white flowers tucked into a diagonal fold

If you’re a creative or product stylist, you can use this trick of creating diagonals.

The slope direction depends on what kind of impression you want to make on your viewers’ brains. ⁠⠀

Let me show you what I mean …

What pattern does your brain pick out in upwards diagonals?⁠⠀

Upwards diagonals like this (╱ rising left to right) are all about activity and increase.

This kind of upward slope suggests movement and energy to your brain.⁠⠀

upwards diagonals for product styling - image shows 3 vintage teacups arranged in an upward diagonal on a flatlay

If you’re styling a coffee photoshoot, or sports products, you’re better using upwards diagonals.⁠⠀

Think energy and movement.

So many famous brands use logos with upward diagonals.

Especially brands that are all about activity. ⁠⠀

✔️Consider the Nike swoosh
✔️The Adidas logo
✔️The Helly Hansen double-H is on an upward diagonal
✔️Even NASA uses an upward diagonal in its logo

Pringles does it with its text logo too. Same for Schweppes. ⠀

What does our brain see in downwards diagonals?⁠

Downward diagonals (╲ falling left to right) suggest decrease or relaxation.

downwards diagonals in photos illustrated by an outdoor with sweetpea growing against it

Photographs with downward diagonals are more likely to suggest ease over effort.

That’s exactly what a photograph of a garden should do, for example.⁠

Or if your products or services are intended for self-care and relaxation.⠀

Wellbeing products or relaxation brands should try the downward diagonal, as it suggests ease and relaxation to our brains.⁠⠀

Case studies: diagonals in photos & psychology-led styling

⁠Here are some intriguing examples of upwards diagonals, including two of my favourites – the Tour de France logo and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Can you spot the person in each of the logos?

Meanwhile, relaxing health and beauty brand Neom serves up the downwards diagonal really effectively in their product styling.⁠⠀

Spot the different intention for the message?

Top takeaways for psychology-led styling

To make your buyers feel …⁠⠀

★ Energised – ↗️ diagonal up⁠

If you want your photos to suggest movement and energy, include upward diagonal shapes.

★ Relaxed – slope down⁠ ↘️

If you want your photos to suggest ease and relaxation, include downward diagonal shapes.

Your marketing psychology challenge – find diagonals in photos and logos

Look at the packaging/branding around you and see if you find any logos or styling sloping downwards.⁠

Good luck. It’s surprisingly rare.

You’ll see plenty of upwards diagonals in branding, and very few pointing down.

Qantas does it on their tailfin logo, but sometimes they show their logo the “wrong” way round, so that it slopes up.⁠ Bet there’s been some boardroom branding debate about that.⁠

I estimate the ratio of upwards to downwards diagonals you find is at least 9:1.

If you find this marketing psychology styling takeaway interesting, read more here about movement in photography.