Pedagogy Design and Computers page 7


Technology Reshaping Visual Communication
Periodically, the role of visual communication has undergone significant changes due to shifting priorities within society. From a historical context, the forces shaping roles originated with religion, government, industry or technical progress. There is no question but what computer technology is changing the present definition and role of graphic designers, and as of now, the nature of that change is unclear. However, regardless of change, there are factors central to visual communication that must be recognized, preserved and adapted to new technology and concepts of communication. Visual literacy with attendant appreciation for, and demonstration of, esthetic values are at the core of any visual expression whether it be individual or societal. Graphic designers must respect and understand what constitutes visual communication. This applies to direct communication such as typography or the more subtle forms such as symbolism and everything in between. The graphic designer will be expected to communicate at more levels than previously, and they can no longer work as isolated contributors. graphic designers have to expand their problem- solving capabilities, but in this respect, they must learn to work in tandem with others. Visual literacy, visual communication and problem-solving should be retained as the basic core for graphic design education. With the number of non-designers engaged in desktop publishing, graphic designers have to use the computer differently with superior results to distinguish themselves from non-designers in order to justify their profession and to create demand for graphic design services.

To paraphrase a statement reputedly made by Marshall McLuhan, “Man shapes new tools, and thereafter, they shape man.” We are certainly seeing this occur with computers. But it is better to be a master of technology than to be a slave to it. Mastery can be achieved only by having personal criteria related to high standards and exercising the necessary restraint to meet objectives. The most relevant restraints grow out of understanding visual principles, awareness of what constitutes drawing, respect for typographic function and sensitivity for color. These qualities are best learned through hand-generated involvement without the benefit of computers. Skills required to operate the computer are not to be confused with the skills required to do by hand what the computer does mechanically. Once understanding, values and hand skills are acquired, students are then brought to the computer where the creative and mechanical are blended. The challenge for teachers today is finding the most effective means for using the computer as a teaching and learning tool. We do not return to older methods but learn to exploit new technologies without sacrificing our values. We move forward while assessing the benefits of the computer as a tool, defining new restraints and retaining formal values and communication as first priorities. Students must be instilled with an understanding of the computer as a tool, and that they should rely on themselves for imagery rather than depending on what a machine can do. Educators and professional designers should not wallow aimlessly, or become seduced, by technology as did our Victorian ancestors.



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Visual literacy,
visual communication
and problem-solving
should be retained
as the basic core for
graphic design education.

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