Frames carry multiple messages. Around a work of art a frame can establish an emphatic border—the artwork is inside the frame/the world is outside; or it may act as an almost invisible bridge from the artwork to the wall and the room. The frame may have more to do with the décor surrounding it than the work of art within it; or a frame may serve as an ornate halo, bestowing honor or status on the work framed.

Frames appear in many forms in the media, especially in ads. If we look closely at these frames and consider their style and type, whether rich or austere, bold or delicate, we can learn something about how we are intended to perceive and understand the object within the frame and its context.

We recently started a series called “Frames + Media” on our blog — the point of these articles is to call attention to all the things a frame can alter, affect and mean.

Take the image to the right, a New Yorker cover by Bruce McCall from last autumn.

The New Yorker Cover October 2013

A Gentlemen’s Club, and on the wall portraits of eminent members, all framed with the same massive gold frame. Such frames are sometimes called livery frames, and in their compelling uniformity they exert a measure of control over the portraits. All these eminent men from different eras, but, the frames suggest, all of one lineage. And next to them…the Silicon Valley Iconoclast. Not even that heavy gold frame can persuade us that he’s of the same ilk as his neighbors on the wall. He looks dismayed. Perhaps he’s wondering how he came to be in this club, in this frame.

By Jed Bark, Bark Frameworks.

Bark Frameworks Newsletter, No. 5 – September 2014.