When people think about the use of tone in advertising and design, the most obvious thought is that it is a visual technique referring to the use of colour. Now of course this is largely true, after all we designers are often labelled as graphic designers and our profession is often referred to as graphic design.

This however is a simplistic view because as designers we rely on so much more than just the visual, to create a successful campaign or brand requires the use of two tones, with only one of the tones being the use of colour.

So it was recently Jack in the box presented a new brand to a client and explained the importance of visual tone in positioning the brand in the market place, but just as importantly the positioning of the brand through another tone: ‘tone of voice’.

In this case, visual tone was used to create a point of difference from their competitors and create strong visual awareness across their key markets, along with creating differentials between these markets. This has been achieved through strong bold contrasting graphics for one market, versus more reserved layouts utilising more white space and softer imagery for another.

These strategies however manage only part of the job, what is required to complete the successful communication of the brand here is the way tone of voice is employed.

Here the art of the copywriter comes to the fore, just like the way we utilise different language when we talk to our children as opposed to having a conversation with a work colleague, so too the way copy is worded is different for each reader.

The copywriter will craft copy that is appropriate to the audience, be it casual conversation, formal, humorous, authoritative or technical etc, then once the copy is finalised, the way a designer sets the typography will further enforce the message.

For example, the word ‘please’ written in a lowercase script typeface will be read as a politely asked question, whereas written in all uppercase in a bold sans serif can read as a demanding statement.

It is through this combination of the two tones that design becomes powerful and successful for our clients.