visual language and - North Dakota State

Before Class
Do research for timeline and/or group-assigned tasks.
Begin reading assignments due next Tues.
In Class
Work on timelines:
Look at samples.
Issues and questions: technology, research,
Finalize topics and group composition, if
Polish up task lists, agendas.
What is visual language?
What is visual culture?
Why are they important?
That visual image
no doubt got your
attention in a
pretty potent
way, right?.
“Visual Culture”
A visual culture is one in which visual communication
is the dominant mode of communication.
Marshall McLuhan says that history can be defined by
3 communication cultures:
• ORAL—truth is that which is spoken; tribal and
community oriented.
• PRINT OR ALPHABET—truth is that which is in
writing; individualistic and scientific.
• VISUAL—truth is that which is see; a “secondary
orality”: return to the tribal and mystical, but with
“Visual Language”
A visual language is “the integration of words,
images, and shapes into a single communication
unit” (Robert Horn, Visual Communication).
“Words are essential to visual language. They give
conceptual shape to communication and supply
the capacity to name, define and classify
elements and to discuss abstractions. Images
are what we first think of when we think of visual
language, but without an integration with words
and/or shapes, images are only conventional
visual art.”
more than ever
Images and visual media matter in
part because…
They can now bring the world into our living rooms in an endless
stream; have made the world much smaller than it used to be.
(Conversely, small spaces are now much more worldly than they used to be.)
They are heavily used by commercial advertisers in their ceaseless
efforts to make us purchase consumer goods. Capitalist use of
visual media plays a huge part in the “torrent” of images inundating
our lives.
Think about where/how you encounter images each day. Make a list
of types or sources.
They effect us differently—both psychologically and physiologically—
from sound and print media.
Ok, so how DO they affect us? What is
one of the ways in which visual language
has power?
It can communicate holistically (you get the message in a
flash, what McLuhan calls “allatonceness”).
Print = one letter and one word at a time.
Oral = one word at a time.
But the visual is a form of “flash reason”—the power of a
neon sign or image to make immediate sense, have
immediate impact, a kind of thinking quite distinct from
print culture’s “slow reason” or oral culture’s preference
for deliberation and debate (Greg Ulmer).
approach to VLC will be…
• Pragmatic: you’ll learn how to “write visually” in three different
media. We all need these chops increasingly in our professional and
personal lives. This is a writing class.
• Theoretical and Rhetorical: you’ll read visual theorists as you work
on your projects to learn about the semiotics, psychology, history,
and varieties of visual language, even as you are applying it
yourself. I.e., you’ll be introduced to some theoretical frameworks
that should help you understand the visual culture you live in and the
visual work you are producing for class. This includes analyzing and
thinking critically about the arguments made in images coming at
you every day—indeed every hour, every…hell, nanosecond... In
sum, you’ll practice “reading” visual documents.
• Creative: you’ll have a great time exploring stuff you’ve probably
been wanting to learn anyway.
Fun Facts to Show and Tell
• Most of us receive more than 80 percent of our
information through our
• Notice the link between the words image and
imagination. “There seems to be a link between creativity
and imagination—our ability to generate images in our
minds, images not always representational or connected
to anything in our experience.”
• Likewise, there are strong links between images and our
emotional and psychological conditions. Consider
dreams (our psyches do all kinds of “image work” when
we sleep), the drawings of children or the emotionally
disturbed, or the signs adopted by volatile groups.
According to Tony Schwartz,
communication isn’t the sending of information
from a sender to a receiver. S
Rather, it is the striking of a responsive chord in
the mind of the receiver. That is, the sent material
stirs something already in the listener or viewer.
Thus, information already in our minds plays a
large role in giving communication power and
Now is the time
for all good
people to abolish
war forever.
Something which contributes to this
“responsive chord” action is
Intertextuality = creators of texts borrowing from
previous texts, consciously or unconsciously. All
works and artists are influenced by works and
artists before them. All texts contain various
kinds of echoes from previous texts.
Much of the material stored in our minds resonates
or is stirred when related material is brought to
our attention. Intertextuality is a serious part of
is determined in part by the physiological structure
of the eye. Our eyes, for example, differentiate
between objects and the spaces around them.
How we see
However, culture also plays a huge role in how we
see. For instance, in the West, we tend to see
objects, not the spaces between or around them.
In the East, spaces are given special attention
and value.
How we see
In fact…
in the West, seeing is granted a terrific
degree of importance.
Heather R. says
she’s in this course
because she does “a
lot of looking at
various things.”
How is seeing important to our culture?
Just consider the ways in which we use the
word “see.” I.e., when you use the word
“see,” what do you mean?
Seeing (vision) is equated with
“I see what you’re saying.”
“The light of reason.”
“Let me illuminate this subject…”
“I recognized him.” (re)cognition is equated with seeing and
It is also traditionally equated with
“Seeing is believing.”
“The light of truth.”
“I saw it with my own eyes.”
It is also considered the key factor in our
notions of beauty.
And it is critical in how we signal who we are
(it is intimately tied to personal identity and
the way we understand who people are).
Beret =
Bow tie =
Crew cut =
Birkenstock sandals =
Teacher wearing a Groucho mask =
Is seeing the key to certainty and
truth and reality?
Look at these vision exercises.
All of which is to say…
“seeing” is not a a matter of simply
apprehending what is “there” with our
“Seeing,” in fact, is always and
What determines what you see
when you “see”?
What mediates vision?
o Culture
o Your physical location
o Gender
o Race
o Occupation
o “Taste cultures”
o Psychology
o How much coffee you had in the last hour
Let’s take a quick peek
at some of your self
Major Project #2
May 6
5:00 pm
5:32 pm & 4 secs
Click here for assignment.
Basic Elements of
Principles of Visual Design