What children’s paintings tell us about consumer society

Drawing is one of the favorite activities of children. From doodles to more perfect productions, their paintings tell us about their environment. However, children are immersed in a consumer culture and academic works come together to emphasize that consumer society is particularly scrutinized by them when they draw.

Based on these observations, interested researchers in this field are increasingly using these graphic media so that children can learn and understand what to use.

Baby drawings have been collected for research.
Drawing research as a child’s language, Contributed by the author

In terms of their cognitive abilities, children primarily process information through visual elements. Thus, in the context of the workshop, researchers who asked children between the ages of 7 and 12 (according to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget to draw the situation of the product or consumption) came to the same conclusion. Children call for many details, testify to a good explanation and memorization of specific features that categorize products and distinguish between brands: logos, graphic charters, mascots, packaging …

Similarly, when they are present alongside young participants, the researchers noticed a great application in children to reproduce the characteristic colors and shapes of the brands.

Cost context

Moreover, even when the child is not asked by the researcher for a specific instruction, it is not uncommon to find one or more marks in a drawing. These are then combined to reinforce the reality of the production, undoubtedly depicting the importance that children place on them in their daily lives.

Some participants add slogans, emphasizing their understanding of the connection between brands and advertising. The presence of the brand, the product associated with promotional messages in children’s productions, shows how much of these different ingredients constitute resources in building their consumer culture.

Beyond their knowledge of products and brands, children know how to distinguish between how they are consumed. In this way, they represent not only the physical spaces of enjoyment but also the social environment. They are able to distinguish products eaten at home – and then draw their family members – from other products used outside the home.

From the status of food considered innocent, snacks have become a highlight of family comfort with the period of captivity.
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Read more: Food: Return to Snacking


For example, canteen meals will have different tables and chairs to represent food in a shared environment. We also get a lot of babies to report commonalities inspired by these foods taken together. Another example, if we ask children to draw a snack without going into details, they will draw a picture where they will imagine themselves eating, where they will represent their own food, but they can also draw a birthday snack where many objects will be underlined. . The occasional and festive character of this dish.

Each situation depicted is then combined with general products, demonstrating their ability to identify the “right” objects and the “right” ones depending on the situation. Inventory of objects associated with characters (family, coworkers, educators, etc.) also suggests that children perceive very quickly the symbolic and social dimensions associated with enjoyment.

The world of transformation

Children live in a world of change and this awareness is reflected in their drawings. Bathing in rules and values ​​that try to make spending more responsible, more virtuous, children try to make sense of them in their drawings.

In the context of issues related to a healthy and sustainable diet for their health and well-being, children are often contacted by researchers and consumer experts on the subject. Created drawings provide access to their food collection and their personal preferences. They also publish products and brands that are associated with good eating or the cause of their well-being.

Baby drawings
Healthy eating tips seen by young participants in a study.
Research on drawing as a child’s language, Contributed by the author

Also, the drawings show that children know the codes used by the food industry to inform consumers that a product is healthy: the use of green or yellow, the reproduction of labels or the nutritional-score … their drawings then question the right levers to enable behavioral changes. Some kids even offer themselves some solutions to get into their productions: “Give good points, avoid ads, make sweets that don’t hurt teeth” …

In the same vein, our empirical research on the environmental awareness of children between the ages of 42 (17 girls and 25 boys) between the ages of 7 and 12 shows that they all use the main causes of global warming that they have identified. Black and gray smoke from cars or factories is used on stage. This suggests that they have internally created the fact that human activities contaminate and endanger the planet, which is sometimes presented in the form of a sad face covered in tears.

If children react strongly to global warming, their paintings will find some solutions to combat the phenomenon. Undoubtedly we should see them in difficulty, just like adults, to develop in a consumer society under pressure.

From presentation to imagination

If the drawings reflect the way children grasp consumer society, it makes it possible for them to capture their imaginations, identify their aspirations, and analyze inconsistencies with existing ones. For example, as part of a study on distribution signs, 95 children were asked to present an “ideal store, their dream store” using an A4 sheet and 32 markers, 18 colored pencils and pencils.



Read more: On screen, helping children become conscious consumers


Researchers have found that all children have given free rein to their creativity, freeing themselves from rational limitations in favor of humorous, poetic, or even magical considerations. Shops are designed as a place that enhances a captivating shopping experience and where they are welcomed and considered. These productions, at the root of diverse thinking, undoubtedly form a source of inspiration for managers who want to innovate considering the expectations of their young clients.

The notion of consumption was also called for in the context of a study on the presentation of children eating insects. Children offer insect-based recipes in their drawings and from this point of view indicate that their consumption arouses less disgust than adults and therefore activating the right levers can be imagined in the near future.

Far from being a common object to arouse the pride of tender parents, children’s drawings constitute a cultural resource and therefore a scientific resource for their practice as young consumers and access to their presentations. Analysis of these children’s productions can feed their perspectives on reflection, design actions, perhaps enhancing their well-being in a consumer society that plays a central role as their guide and future citizen. But those views are ultimately less demanded and slightly followed.

This “natural” activity of children is now being reconsidered by adults through design methods that consider formatting (by drawing or modeling) as a conversion tool that allows them to capture, invent, or still create the desired future around cost. Undoubtedly proof that a “good sketch is better than a long speech”.

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