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.
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.