In today’s class…1) Icebreaker2) Checking in– questions about the syllabus, about class, from the long break since last we met, etc.3) A little visual fun4) The readings– some discussion and an activity5) Report back/break6) Introduction to Print Project7) What people talk about when they talk about talking to a community partner8) Missy: she’s missing9) Homework
Breaking the ice.For today…Share your name, obviously, and tell us what the oldestthing you own is (excluding antiques… the thing you’vehad the longest, presumably acquiring new or newish).
Mine…It’s a talking Alf doll (it took cassettes, like Teddy Ruxpin).I got it for my 9th birthday. Interesting– perhaps—fact. Iused it as a guest speaker as part of my senior capstonepresentation.It’s from 1986. Which means it’s older than most Miamistudents. *cringe*
So, to start us off…As I mentioned last class, each time I want to start us offwith a sort of interesting visual document. I’m going tocheat and do two this week because I have a betterexample of after-image.So that’s coming first. Then, following it, there are a fewslides with something else. I’m going to show them onthe projector, but for maximum effect, you should openthese on your own screen. The light pollution that makesthe projector sort of dim also diminishes the visualimpact here.
Nifty, right?The reason we get after-image is that when we stare atan image for a certain period of time, the rods in our eyes(and the cones, sometimes) start to adapt to the color(the same way our eyes adapt to a dark room). But theirgoal is to sort of blunt the intensity of the color, so whenyou look at a blank—white– surface, the opposing colorsappear faintly, coming more completely into view if youblink, as it is the motions of your eyes that aid in thecolor being dispersed.Now check THIS out.
So, the readings…I want us to engage the theory readings (the two Wysockipieces, the Benjamin, the Barthes and the Kress) andreally sort of grapple with them, but as you might guess,if we tried to grapple with every part of all five of thosereadings we’d end up sitting here a long, long timegrappling with a big ol’ bunch of ideas.So I’m going to suggest a strategy– pull key ideas andillustrate how they work/see if we can convert them to asort of tool, or a roadmap, if you will, to understandingvisual rhetoric.
Walter Benjamin wrote:“The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from itsbeing imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This traditionitself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable. Anancient statue of Venus, for example, stood in a differenttraditional context with the Greeks, who made it anobject of veneration, than with the clerics of the MiddleAges, who viewed it as an ominous idol. Both of them,however, were equally confronted with its uniqueness,that is, its aura.”
Key idea: “Aura”“The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from itsbeing imbedded in the fabric of tradition…”Aura, then, is what, precisely? Let’s look at two imagesand talk about their aura and what that means to ourunderstanding of visual rhetoric.
We talked a bit about movieposters when last we met. This isone of the less common ones forInception.What I want you to think abouthere is the aura difference fromthe painting on the previousslide to this one.How’s this whole “aura” conceptwork?
Roland Barthes Barthes challenges us thusly: “Now even– and above all if– the image is in a certain manner the limit of meaning, it permits the consideration of a veritable ontology of the process of signification. How does meaning get into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?”
This is a famous logo/icon inWestern culture.Anyone know what it is?Anyone know WHY it is what itis?Paging Barthes, Dr. RolandBarthes…
…According to Charles Baldwin, an environmental-healthengineer who contributed to itsdevelopment: "We wantedsomething that was memorablebut meaningless, so we couldeducate people as to what itmeans.“From: Ye Olde Wikipedia
To quote Cobb from Inception… We have to go deeper. Help me, Gunther Kress, you’re my only hope!
Gunther Kress Kress tells us: “The approach from Social Semiotics not only draws attention to the many kinds of meanings which are at issue in design, but the “social” in “Social Semiotics” draws attention to the fact that meanings always relate to specific societies and their cultures, and to the meanings of the members of those cultures.”
So if Kress is right, everyone inthe room knows what this imagemeans.But… why?
So combine the ideas… And we’re saying images hold meanings embedded in them by cultures. Let’s look at a few.
Here’s an iconic image from ourculture.Fun fact: the torch was oncemeant to be a functioninglighthouse (awesome, right?)Other fun fact: if you neverlooked closely, the tablet she’sholding is meant to representthe declaration of independence.Third fun fact: like theConeheads, she came fromFrance!
What happens to the same iconicimage in a different treatmenthere?
Oh, that nutty John Cena!What’s he doing here?
This U of Michigan gymnastseems to be following suit.
Wait a minute… didn’t DesmondHoward get a trophy that lookedsort of like…
This, for those not into sports, isthe Heisman Trophy, awarded tothe best college football player inthe nation.Striking his pose whensucceeding– not just in football,but most predominantly infootball– has become the newversion of the baseball calledshot.Let me throw it back to theBAMF-in-Chief for a finalillustration…
Soooo… Images carry meaning. That meaning is rhetorically constructed and often richly cultural. Here’s one more thing to consider…
Anne Wysocki reminds us…“Because we have all grown up in denselyvisually constructed environments, usually withlittle overt instruction or awareness of how theconstruction takes place, it is easy to think ofthe visual elements of texts as simply happeningor appearing…as though… television sitcomswere the result of a camera crew following atypical family through their day.”
Wysocki challenges us…… to ask why. Think about why those images arechosen.And maybe more importantly… why don’tpeople think about it/why isn’t it sort of a bigdeal to most Americans?
Your turnBreak into five groups. That should mean 4 or 5 per group.Once you’re grouped, from my podium going clockwise around the room:Group 1: KressGroup 2: BarthesGroup 3: Wysocki, EyesGroup 4: BenjaminGroup 5: Wysocki, Meaning of TextsPick no less than 1 and no more than 3 main ideas, support them with sourcequotes, and find examples for discussion. As you finish, email me yourmaterials: email@example.com
The Print ProjectTo switch gears, let’s talk just a bit about our print based project, which wewill begin in earnest next week when Dr. Jim Porter visits class to discuss theneeds of the American Culture and English (ACE) program.Instead of me repeating what’s already on the web, let’s look there, thentalk about what questions you might have.The TL;DR take away for the print project assignment is this: ACE needsmaterials for publicity and recruitment (I want us to be aware of what theyspecifically ask for but also to cast a wide net– think about needs) andwe’re going to provide that, as a class.
One key……to this whole process is to know how to speak to community partners. Dr.Porter will be with us for the start of next class. Some key things we’ll needto do, then:1.Be on time (duh!). You don’t want to walk into a client meeting late.2.Read over whatever you can find about ACE (I’ll place some stuff on myblog for you to take a look at) and try to become familiar with what theydo/provide.3.Think about what you would want to know, for example, to make a posterfor them. To make a data sheet. To make, say, varied versions of a one-sheetrecruitment flier to mail to potential students in various nations. Come withquestions, but make sure they’re specific and thoughtful.
Another key factor……is respect.Whenever we deal with a community partner, remember that you, as astudent and participant in this course, represent:1)Our university2)Your respective programs (particularly PW and IMS folks)3)The class4)Yourselves5)MeBehave as you would expect a professional designer to behave with hisclients, and be courteous. Listen carefully, take good notes. Call him Dr.Porter, for example, not “Jim” (unless he tells you Jim is okay).
This is also a moment where……we will transition much more into talking about the readings from thebooks and will move away, at least to a small degree, from the moretheoretical underpinnings of the early part of class.That theory will persist; it’s not leaving us. We’re just about to take the stepover the threshold into practice.To that end, I want to look at what I think might be one of the mostinformative, if not horrifyingly snarky (and okay, hilarious) design lessonsyou’ll ever get.
So, reminders…1) Every week you have a writing response and design prompt due on your Tumblr at the time we meet for class. Since we got a little mixed up with the huge break, I’ll give you a few days to get everything done, but make sure you have the first set of things up by mid-week (let’s say noon on Thursday).2) That means you should, for next week, complete design task 3 and a response to what you are reading for that class.3) Read for class: Kimball & Hawkins Chapters 3 and 4, Golombisky & Hagen chapters 4-6, and Norman “Why Designers Go Astray” from The Design of Everyday Things (on Niihka)4) Remember that our first hour (roughly) will be spent talking to Dr. Porter about the ACE element of our print project.