What Helen Armstrong, Ellen Lupton, and J. Abbott Miller, were all trying to explain in their readings was how Graphic design came to be and why it is important to look back at what lead to it becoming such a complex part of society. Learning about how far people have come in graphic design from ancient writings, counting, and printing techniques is just another example of how people have progressively evolved in our ability to invent things and improve them. Back then design was almost an afterthought, what ancient people thought of first was the message along with a way to jot down said message, they wanted a way to record a specific thing, be it a name, year, or story, etc.
As designers we tend to often forget that these ancient practices still influence the way we design today. For one, our designs and their recordings share the same purpose, to convey a message. Not to mention many of the fonts used in typography hail from ancient typefaces such as, Garamond, Blackletter, Calibri, and even Helvetica. Using illustrations is an even older practice that can be dated back to cave paintings when ancient people used pictographs to record their lives and beliefs. The term ‘Graphic Design’ wasn’t even coined until the 20th century.
It is always good to be able to look back in the history of design and acknowledge it. It allows for us to understand things we could of forgotten, like the purposes or importance of certain elements. It is a refresher to go back to the very basics of design for it has grown so large and complex that it can sometimes become frustrating for aspiring designers. It can also work as a form of inspiration, perhaps an ancient design can inspire a modern idea, but it can also inspire in the way it shows how people have adapted throughout the years to the changes brought up by society. If people then could make a design that allowed for them to convey what they wanted, so can you. You too can adapt.
Throughout history design has had one main function which is communicating a message. How this message is communicated has changed over the years and is also dependent on the culture it is made for. From reading Graphic Design Theory by Helen Armstrong, design is more than just creating something that is aesthetically pleasing, but it is something that helps shape our society. Before reading this chapter what I knew about design was that I had to solve a problem and know how to organize information and create something out of it. To my surprise that isn’t the case. From what Armstrong taught me, as designers we have a social responsibility since we are actively engaging with the public through our work. Advertisements, posters, and logos are just a few of the things we design that interact with people. According to Armstrong, “ Designers are actively engaging their societies politically and culturally, increasingly thinking globally inside a tightly networked world.” This specific part started making me think about how design not only changes over time but changes based on what is currently happening in society. Especially today in our society we are facing many issues such as climate change and politics. It is events like these that impact how we design and the messages that we send out into the world. You also see this happening in the past as well like many art movements for example, Abstract expressionism which emerged after World War two. This is how new design strategies are made, by looking at the past and seeing what has been already done we can create something new as society continues to evolve.
Counting Sheep, Period Styles, Language of Dreams and Language of Vision by Ellen Lupton & J. Abbott Miller also explores the idea of communication in design and how it has evolved over time. From the number of art history classes that I have taken I have never come across the idea of archaic writing. From reading Counting Sheep design has played a huge role in how people used to count back then. For example, according to the reading “Groups on a tally stick might be indicated with larger or smaller cuts, or straight lines and diagonals.” The simple design of a few lines and diagonals show how there is a relationship between a symbol and the meaning behind it. The symbol sometimes isn’t the exact representation of the item but we know what item it represents. We see this pattern evolving throughout many different civilizations and eventually creating a language based on symbols. Even today in our modern society we still see this. For example, emojis are symbols that we use while texting and the meaning behind them is universally known. This reading made me consider how this translates to other things in design and the first thing I thought of was logos. We design logos to represent a brand but broken down a logo is just a symbol. One of the most popular logos that everyone knows is Target. It’s simply two red circles that represent a target and this symbol is something that everyone knows the meaning of but most importantly is associated with the brand Target. As a designer knowing what archaic writing and counting principles are you get a better understanding of what symbols are and how they are a part of language.
As a designer, understanding the history of design is important and especially when it comes to the style of how people wrote back then. While reading Period Styles I came across many interesting things, such as how early Greek and Latin were written with no space in between and in all caps. This brought me back to my typography class where the first thing I learned was to never use all caps for body copy. I was shocked and surprised to see how far writing has evolved over time with the introduction to paragraphs, commas, colons, and even periods. All of these small things that we now take for granted not knowing how these did not exist at one point. It definitely made me appreciate them more because it not only makes reading and writing easier but, it makes me wonder if there might be more change to language in the future or maybe there already has been a change and we just aren’t aware of it.
Before reading the passage by Helen Armstrong, “Introduction: Revisiting the Avant-Garde from Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field” I told myself, what is the point in theory in graphic design anyway? I mean isn’t the whole point of graphic design creating things about communication messages? So, what theories are there to make in graphic design and why some people make them? After reading the passage I could see what they were talking about. The part where they explain that design is a social activity is true. When we create our designs I think we want to gain recognition from the public eye such as, “Hey, this is such and such work!” Other times well-known publishers might want to use your designs as inspiration or showing-off in their exhibitions or what have you. I know if I create a design I want to share with others to see. However, the part where it says design is visible yet invisible, unacknowledged and unnoticeable I don’t think it’s true. Often times whenever I’m outside going somewhere some people take time out of their day and notice and acknowledge the designs that are out in public. For example, people going to museums or exhibitions it shows design is not invisible, unacknowledged and unnoticeable.
Another part I loved about the passage is when they mentioned El Lissitzky had an influence on people in the 20th century. Here in the 21st century his designs have influenced some people I know. My high school art teacher became an art teacher due to being inspired by El Lissitzky’s work. She read his books, visit museums that show cased his art and she even once tried imitating his art style. One part that got me most was, “Designers read about design in order to stimulate growth and change in their own work.” I can relate to that 100%. When I first started drawing my art style was out of proportion. I didn’t necessarily just read about design to change my art style but mainly looked at other designer’s art style for inspiration. My art work has improved over the years because of that method.
Now that I have read “Counting Sheep, Period Styles, Language of Dreams and Language of Vision from Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic Design” by Ellen Lupton & J. Abbott Miller my head hurts after reading period styles. I like how they explain there are numerous ways to count and write down numbers. Another thing that interested me was the way they executed symbols for some words such as showing foot prints instead of saying the word footprint. For the Period Styles the way the wording wasn’t spaced out and all capitals made my brain hurt. For Modern Hieroglyphs, like with the beginning part of this passage I love how they executed symbols for some words. What facts or details from these texts provoke ideas for developing new design strategies? Well, this is a theory but I think it comes down to how people do certain things differently and study each other is how developing new design strategies come to play.
In order to go more in depth in graphic design, everyone starts at the basics to understand what has been done. This helps to send us on a path to understand the best ways to do things and what could possibly be done better. It also gives us the advantage to not make the same mistakes without having a better outcome. It was interesting to read in the excerpt from Design writing research, “Writing commonly described as an inferior, secondary copy of the immediate, intuitive spoken word;” This makes sense in the way that if you can not do the basic, which would be speaking, then what are you going to write down? Since we have turned into a technology filled world, we are forgetting how to do basic things because we rely on technology to do it for us.
Us as designers, have to understand the long line of where we came from. To know the long line of why we are taught what we are taught today. All art from before our time still exists today. If we understand what they did, then we can use it as a reference to bring back in a variety of ways. we don’t doubt the skills that are being taught to us. As stated in Helen Armstrong’s Graphic Design Theory: Reading from the field, “As graphic Design took shape as a profession, the ideal of objectivity replaced that of subjectivity.” Which is why teachers are teaching graphic designers how to think with hard facts but convey emotion for the consumers without taking into account our personal feelings.
I thought it was absolutely genius, within the excerpt Design writing research, to explain the change in writing over time meanwhile the passage itself is being depicted in that manner. The physical appearance of the chapter itself expressed to me that you do not need both a picture and writing to express something but actually unity them together.
Adaptability is important. It can benefit you to possibly get a job. Rather than giving that job to others that were taught to be working robots of limitations. It is key to always be aware of what is going on today and tomorrow at the same time. If you adapt to the world around you, you understand the peoples interests and the way they speak so that you can communicate on their level depending on your target audience. This provokes ideas for developing new design strategies because it gives us more freedom to communication informally and have fun.
Our first reading assignment consists of a few short pieces, which can be found via the links below. Your response should be 3-4 paragraphs, which may be typed or written directly in your research journal, but you must (1) create a new post containing your response and (2) bring a hard copy of your response to class next week.
To create a new post you’ll need to join the group. You can do this by clicking the “Join Now” button on the course profile. Please do this sooner than later to ensure that there are no issues in creating your first post.
Here are the readings:
Helen Armstrong, Introduction: Revisiting the Avant-Garde from Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field: ArmstrongIntro
Ellen Lupton & J. Abbott Miller, Counting Sheep, Period Styles, Language of Dreams and Language of Vision from Design Writing Research: Writing on Graphic Design: LuptonMillerDesignWritingResearch
Here are the questions to which you should respond:
Our first readings by Helen Armstrong, Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller consider developments in graphic communication from ancient and recent history. Why are rudimentary communication methods relevant for contemporary information systems? Why should contemporary designers concern themselves with archaic writing, counting, or printing techniques? What facts or details from these texts provoke ideas for developing new design strategies?
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or issues. You can send a message through OpenLab or email me: email@example.com
This is the OpenLab Course site for COMD 3504, Section D240. We’ll use this site as our central resource for accessing readings and class materials, and for posting weekly responses. Please familiarize yourself with its contents, and stay tuned for much more to come.