For a majority of the population the term “abstract” or “abstraction” can be a pure differentiating factor splitting the masses into those who are comfortable with the theory of it and those who aren’t.

Of course the object of abstraction plays a larger role here. From art – paintings, logos and sculptures to music, sound design and light, some would believe Haiku is abstraction to a certain extent too. Feelings and emotions would be high up in the abstraction scale for some of us.

What then is the common thread here? I’d like to believe its the interpretation.

Let’s take a very universal example here and try to simplify it – LOVE. How each of us visualize love and communicate it is an abstraction – because each of us interpret it differently. Can you imagine how many numerous abstractions occur all at once when you present someone with a token of your love? A simple heart emoji sent in a text message itself has two, assuming there aren’t any observers of this exchange.

Some of us understand it, yes but do we all like the abstraction? I for one am not convinced we are – that brings me to ask why. Why is it that once we understand a certain thought or object is abstract that we proceed to place it in either the “I like this” box or the “I don’t like this” box?

The answer revealed itself last evening as I discussed with my friends of each of our love lives and the things that made us uncomfortable in our previous relationships – the idea of desire or having to own up and take responsibility.

For those who desire said thought or object – any abstraction at any scale would be an absolute delight – the heart emoji, whether pale red and flat on my iPhone screen or a bright red rotating GIF or even a note scribbled across a red post-it note as an abstraction of love would instantly be placed in the “I like this” box.

Then there’s those of us who feel the need to escape the responsibility or feel pressured to own up to the idea or object – we would dislike the abstraction and prefer a “real” visualization or interpretation of the object much more comforting.

Abstraction

How do we use this in our everyday lives and more so in business? Conveying a positive message, like a promotion? Send flowers! Conveying a negative emotion like a rejection after an interview? An in-person or over-the-phone conversation seems a safer bet.

We use it in the way we advertise too – why else do you think push products’ advertisements are so (over-the-top) real? Insurance specifically or savings and investment products for banks always show the person – never animated or cartoonised – going through life making the hard choices. His thoughts always voiced by a man who sounds like your average person (read: non-aspirational/ easy to connect to/ projective)

Abstraction and the scale at which we can implement it including its net effect would depend on who the target audience is and what do they identify as – is the thought or object desired? If yes, abstraction even at a small to medium level would most likely heighten their positive outlook to the object – as it calls to their internal ability to “understand” the idea even though it’s been abstracted.

The next time you’re in a greeting card store, may be look at the differences in picturization and quantum of words used between cards for a baby shower, birthday greeting and an I’m sorry or a condolence card.

What are some other thoughts or objects you’ve observed where the abstraction scale has been put to use?

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