Type Project - Evolution of Visual Language.

adz's picture

Hey - thought I'd shed a little insight to a project im working on...

I am studying the evolution of language and how graphic design and technology is constantly morphing our visual language into areas we have to adapt to. Im finding interesting links between the creations of ancient Hieroglyphics to modern pictographs in the category of signography - aesthetically and conceptually.

I feel that modern advancements such as the rise of the home computer are ruining the beauty and respect that typography deserves. Basing my investigations on these evolutionary theories I'd like to predict the future of our visual language in the commercial world and raise awareness to the graphic design industry. With major brands and commercialism constantly climbing - I feel that is it time to address our means of displaying visual language for we as Designers are the ones controlling it (everything you read has gone through some form of printing press & designer)

TYPE AS IMAGE is a central focus to these sets of ideas - when designers think of typography, we invariably consider semiotics which consists of semantics (the relation between signs and the concepts they represent), syntax (the formal relation between signs in a system), and pragmatics (the study of signs in use).

My aim (at this pint of the project) is to bring meaning back into typography based on the placement area it is set in, namely public spaces. Typography is embedded into our everyday life therefore it becomes part of us and our culture.

Using type as image I'd like to let the area it is set in talk about the type as opposed to the type talk about the area.

I like the first project on this site:

http://www.dancemade.com/

^ The digitalized geometric typeface is moving forward in time and the process of making the wooden typographic installations allows the overall process to be much more powerful.

Hope all this makes some kind of sense.

What are you thoughts on it?

I have all these ideas but typographically they seem hard to solve.

Any help, ideas, recommended artists appreciated!!

Any questions just ask.

Thanks.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

“ I’d like to predict the future of our visual language. I have all these ideas but typographically they seem hard to solve.”

What do you exactly mean with “typographically,” Adam ?
Needless to say, it is still true that if you want to learn new things, you should try reading old books. The map is not the territory. Shaping context and connections is an act of architecture ; a new form of space requires a new form of architecture, and spaces made of information requires information architecture.
Hope this helps a bit.

blank's picture

I am studying the evolution of language and how graphic design and technology is constantly morphing our visual language into areas we have to adapt to.

Clearly someone has adapted to these areas, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

I feel that modern advancements such as the rise of the home computer are ruining the beauty and respect that typography deserves.

That’s rubbish. Talk about that with some older designers who lived through metal type and phototype about it. You should also talk to Simon Daniels at Microsoft and the Cleartype font type designers, who are bringing fabulous, respectable type to the world’s most common computing platform. And interview some authors of books on typography that have only seen print because of what cheap computing has done for the cost of publishing, or Gary Hustwit, who was able to produce a feature film homage to typography because of computers.

With major brands and commercialism constantly climbing…

Branding and commercialism are not new or becoming any more a part of our society than they ever were, it’s just that different things are getting all of the attention. Do you think that the royalty of feudal nations had all those flags and crests just because they looked cool? And the visual branding of Christian myth and the sale of indulgences really wasn’t all that different from Coke ads, except that Coke doesn’t have eternal damnation backing it up. Read Steve Heller’s latest bit about designers seeing armageddons that aren’t really there. Paula Scher’s Advertising got Better is a bit of tangentially related food for thought.

…for we as Designers are the ones controlling it…

No, the clients who pay for it all are the ones controlling it. Outside of some art galleries, designers don’t have an audience if they aren’t producing stuff that the clients are willing to pay for. They’re the ones creating whatever it is that needs to be communicated. They’re the ones who have a message to get out. Designers are somewhat incidental, and as the success of Head-On and its amateur advertising has shown, crafty clients can do just fine without designers.

when designers think of typography, we invariably consider semiotics which…

Actually, I’m pretty sure that most designers don’t. Semiotics is more of an academic thing than something designers invariably think of.

My aim (at this pint of the project) is to bring meaning back into typography based on the placement area it is set in, namely public spaces.

What meaning has really been lost? Isn’t the essence typography the communication of some other meaning?

The digitalized geometric typeface is moving forward in time…

So is almost everything else in the universe. Everything we produce is a product of its own time; type that references the past are as a much an expression of the contemporary and its infatuation with history as “new” designs are.

…the wooden typographic installations allows the overall process to be much more powerful.

Or do they just move the whole thing somewhere less noticeable?

Right now I think that you’re in a place a lot of us end up in academically: you have a lot of interesting thoughts that have probably been influenced by a lot of interesting reading, but you aren’t sifting out the ideas that are just, well, wrong. Proceeding will be a lot easier if you can sift the good ideas from the bad and justify their rightness. Christians have a parable about a wise man building his house on the rocks of the beach and not the sand. It applies here.

k.l.'s picture

we invariably consider semiotics which consists of semantics (the relation between signs and the concepts they represent), syntax (the formal relation between signs in a system), and pragmatics (the study of signs in use)

Where did you get that from? Morris? Bense? ... For a clearer (and at the same time obscurer) conception of what semiotics is about, have a look into Peirce's own writings. It's worth the efforts.
You'll quickly find out that there is no stand-alone science 'semiotics' as which it is sold here and there. Whenever Peirce talks about signs, he does so in a strictly epistemologic sense and in the context of his three categories, cosmology, etc. Once scholars started extracting something like 'semiotics' from this corpus, they ridiculed rather than improved it.
Also, the time when designers thought they need semiotics' vocabulary to give themselves a scientific touch hopefully is over since one or two decades now.  ;-)

adz's picture

Ha whoa this is totally blown up.

Alessandro

• What do you exactly mean with “typographically,” Adam ?
(Solving it from a typographic perspective) - The solutions will all be visual.

Mr Puckett

• Clearly someone has adapted to these areas, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.
Well yes that's exactly my point. We all subconsciously adapt to it.

• That’s rubbish.
You mis understood man (but i can se where your coming from), look around tho - bad typography is everywhere. Because half the people creating it haven't a clue what they are doing. People make posters and other print related material on programs like Publisher using standard PC fonts etc.

• No, the clients who pay for it all are the ones controlling it.
Once again that's my point. Do you think that this is an issue????

• Actually, I’m pretty sure that most designers don’t.
Ok maybe some don't. Academic thing? Totally - I was educated to do so.

K.I.

Yeah you should look at this article if you can find it;

Signography as a Subject in its Own Right
by Andreas Stotzner

Really interesting.

I should upload it. I'll try figure out how.

Thanks for all the feedback.

But do you feel that objects like pictographs are becoming the beginning of the progression towards new letterforms?

Thats more or less my core idea^

Also the language in today's graphic world - look at logotypes - almost every logo is a made up word and spelt incorrectly. Do you think this has an effect on our language? Not just has designers but as people.

Remember I'm speaking from more of a linguistic point of view. Typography is just the tool I will use to visually communicate this issue.

adz's picture

An idea I had was to study a few areas around the city and design some typefaces for THAT specific area. Reflect the mood of that area through the type.

Then make installations using these typefaces to show the voice of that area.

Thoughts?

Cheers.

k.l.'s picture

What I found was this article (German and English). Actually, this belongs to my category "designers thought they need semiotics' vocabulary".
A few remarks about the first part of this introduction, "What is a sign?":
A. Stoetzner's use of semiotics' vocabulary indicates that he does not know much about it. Semiotics and semiology are not the same, as he suggests with "(semiotics or semiology, teaching of signs in a most general sense)". What he gives as definition of "sign" leans towards Morris whose take was fashionable in the 80s when the Handbook was written, but has already been criticised 40 years earlier (see below). Stoetzner cannot be blamed for citing from Noeth's Handbook of Semiotics, but he can be blamed for obviously not having read anything else. In the last sentence of the first part he reveals his complete misconception of semiotics when he criticises semioticians, again confounding them with semiologists: "Strangely enough, semiologists have hardly considered so far what is most commonly regarded a sign: the graphic sign." Since semiotics, regarded as epistemology, is concerned with sign-an-sich, of course "the graphic sign" is part of its domain.
John Dewey had a nice closing sentence, in an article criticising Morris' take on Peirce: "'Users' of Peirce's writings should either stick to his basic pattern or leave him alone." That was written in 1946 (article in J.o.Ph.) and is still true.

If you, like Stoetzner, think that graphic signs have been neglected by semioticians, then you should have a look into periodicals like Semiotica where you'll find articles like M. Nadin's Interface design: A semiotic paradigm, also there was an entire issue titled The semiotics of the visual: On defining the field. (These issues are from the 80s too.) So if Stoetzner refers to semiotics' shortcomings for the sake of justifying his own project, he doesn't do himself a favor.

Remember I’m speaking from more of a linguistic point of view.

You should decide. Semiotics or linguistics? Semiotics is much broader and, regarded as epistemology, includes but is not restricted to language.

An idea I had was to study a few areas around the city and design some typefaces for THAT specific area. Reflect the mood of that area through the type.
Then make installations using these typefaces to show the voice of that area.

This sounds like an interesting project. My question is, why theory at all? I think that you don't need any. If your approach is a sentimental and emotional one (reacting against what you perceive as decline of visual culture), then why not argue like that and forget about the pseudo-scientific paint? There is nothing bad about it -- I would consider this as the more honest approach.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Signography as a Subject in its Own Right
[…] I should upload it. I’ll try figure out how.

Don’t. It’s already online:
http://direct.bl.uk/bld/PlaceOrder.do?UIN=138637357&ETOC=RN
http://vcj.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/2/3/285

adz's picture

Ok Hardwig cheers.

Quote:
This sounds like an interesting project. My question is, why theory at all? I think that you don’t need any. If your approach is a sentimental and emotional one (reacting against what you perceive as decline of visual culture), then why not argue like that and forget about the pseudo-scientific paint? There is nothing bad about it — I would consider this as the more honest approach.

Thanks Karsten, thats definitely more of a more straight forward approach. I'll look into it.

k.l.'s picture

Cool, thank you!

Nick Shinn's picture

But do you feel that objects like pictographs are becoming the beginning of the progression towards new letterforms?

No, because they don't represent language.
When grouped together, they do not become sentences, but are more like mathematics or cartoon sequences.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

I am not sure you don't need any theory as Karsten suggested since a good one is probably the best practice, plus another question you can try to answer is, when and util when the image can be considered writing ?
Visualizing (works on) proxemics might be something on your interest as well.

adz's picture

No, because they don’t represent language.
When grouped together, they do not become sentences, but are more like mathematics or cartoon sequences.

True. But look at the whole theory of hieroglyphics. The little image based glyphs were a form of language. I'm just curious that's all. In some cases I feel that the future of language is heading towards the use of image based letter forms. (Probably highly incorrect BUT it's kind of interesting) I made this little piece to communicate the idea - focusing on the evolution of the word; Laugh.

http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h170/Adz_07/Picture8.png

I mean, I think it's just an interesting area of research to go into - I know that no-one can predict the future - or can we?? oo0o0o0

I am not sure you don’t need any theory as Karsten suggested since a good one is probably the best practice, plus another question you can try to answer is, when and util when the image can be considered writing?

That's is definitely part of the core focus of my project! Actually, that very idea is probably the only theory I need, it holds a enough depth just on its own.

Visualizing (works on) proxemics might be something on your interest as well.

Proxemics, this is rather insightful.

Thanks people!

Florian Hardwig's picture

Have you seen The Creation, pictographically staged by Juli Gudehus

F

adz's picture

That's really interesting - (visually)

But the content is all garbage haha.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

@ Karsten Lücke

Yes, I can be blamed of having not read much about semiotics. But I do not have any misconception of semiotics, because I just have no conception of semiotics at all. You’re right, I don’t know much about it. The reason is: I simply don’t think I need it.

I am basicly a practical graphic professional who is *to a certain extend* in need of some theory. A theory which is a *tool*. The craftsman has no mercy with a knife which isn’t sharp. Therefor, as a designer, I don’t think I need a semiotics’ vocabulary, or very little of it.

I once tried to start studying semiotics with Umberto Ecco’s “Introduction…”. Around page 40 I was fed up and abondoned the volume: unreadable. Later I thought I’ll look into Nöth and get some useful overview. The treatise came out being nothing else than a fat who-has-written-what-and-when-account. Every semiotist (or semiologist?) seems to have his privat theory. Well then, was my conclusion, there’s obviously no other way out: do it yourself.

When a comprehensive volume about an established subject proves outdated after only two decades, then this subject doesn’t deserve to be called a science – or the author did it completely wrong. What a need shall I have of such a kind of theory? Who really cares about the loads of paper produced by semioticians? Why does semiotics do not appear on graphic designer’s timetables? Why does nearly no one in the real world care about semiotics at all, left aside the semioticians themselves?

Everyone may come to his own answer to that. But many lines in this thread reveal a terrific lack of conceptions among you, fellow graphic designers (sorry for that). The least we graphic people need is to cover that misery by a theorie’s vocabulary which is incoherent, diffuse and scholastic. What we need instead, if ever, is a straight-forward theory of graphic communication, of graphic systems, of graphic means, of the graphical as such. This is what I propose with my humble outlines of a subject called “signography” (which is yet far from being an elaborate system). The mere fact that a lot of signographic concepts being coherent or neighbouring semiotic concepts just lies in the nature of the subject. For me, that fact is no reason to subordinate my thinking under the rules of an established scholastic tradition. I know, that makes me a persona non grata for a certain faculty…

By the way, the article “Signography as a subject in its own right” was launched to a british magazine by linguist Hartmut Stöckl, who is now teaching at Salzburg University. For my own part, I welcome any effort to develop *useful* theory for the graphic business. A:S

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