This presentation is based on Type & Image: The Language of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs

language as a model for graphic design - intro

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A language is a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings through signs (sounds, visual gestures, or marks) having understood meaning. Our language is our principal communications system, and its grammar and rhetoric are the primary model for other forms of communication, including fine art and hybrid forms that combine pictorial and verbal information:
  • film
  • video
  • computer graphics
  • graphic design.

Graphic design gains richness from the combination of multiple language and optical forms — words, pictures, signs, and colors — into complex communications.

The art of rhetoric, as developed by the ancient Greeks, was a study of principles and rules for preparing and delivering speeches that were effective communication and persuasion. Although many of its ideas have limited application to modern graphic design, its classification of the figures of speech from everyday language and literature is useful because visual symbols and images are often used in the same way.

The designer Hanno Ehses uses principles of rhetoric to analyze graphic design. He writes:

Broadly defined, rhetoric is the art that deals with the use of spoken or written discourse. Its object is eloquence, which is defined as effective speech. According to Aristotle, its concern is with 'discovering all the available means of persuasion in any given situation' either to inform (rational appeal), to delight and win over (ethical appeal), or to move (emotional appeal) an audience.

Designers should not ignore the vocabulary of rhetoric simply because it uses unfamiliar terms and very precise definitions of similar concepts, for rhetoric actually defines many communications techniques used daily by graphic designers to solve problems. Figures of speech that show a relationship or resemblance are most important and have graphic parallels in visual comunications. The rhetorical principles we will study are:


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