In all honesty one of the most beneficial things I have learned from McCloud’s book Understanding Comics would be that in order for an audience to be captivated with a visual it needs to have these two items, (along with a few other, but the emphasis will be on these two):
Ambiguity allows a person to see themselves within the comic or image, as though they could live in an alternative existence through the pages of that comic book or visual. By making the face of a character in the comic more vague (lacking detail), there is a creation of ambiguity so that the reader then begins to imagine what it would be like to be the character inside that creative endeavor. Or by making the photograph abstract it causes the viewer to interpret and discern what the image is trying to portray. This gives the reader a desire to finish the story, or continue to look on at the design. It also causes the reader to fill in the gaps mentally, by creating the scenarios in the “gutters” (the white space between the comic panes). That is called closure.
By creating a need for closure the human brain fills in the details that are missing. Such as the photo above: there is not a definitive answer to what it may be. It could be a hole in the floor (strange flooring), but none-the-less it could be a window to a barn or shed. When in reality it is the access panel to a grain conveyer. But if I had not told you that there would still be that ambiguity that would allow anyone to look on and try to create closure by solving the mystery of the image (there is a reason we become upset with the person defining the image if it does not turn out to be what we thought it was: it involves someone else taking our perception and distorting it, but this is a topic for another time). By creating a desire for closure through ambiguity it draws the readers attention and captivates their imagination! That is why I believe it is so important to design something that intrigues the audience, and will try to capture there innovative imagination.
No one will ever see that image the same way I do. They will not scan it with there eyes and notice the oxidization melting into the muted semi-glossy grey tin, that has hues of blue. And if they see what I just explained, it is through my description that has tainted their imagination from creating their own individual interpretation!
It is as simple as that; in order to induce a hunger for creativity there must be:
Closure & Ambiguity!
[Is there a reason I flipped the two words around from the beginning? You tell me...]
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art (pp…). New York: HarperPerennial.