Visual Literacy & Graphic Design


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Presentation given in Culture & Technology 1003 course: Comparative Literacies and Orality. Accompanies this presentation:

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Visual Literacy & Graphic Design

  1. 1. graphical production online and visual literacy a presentation by david gillis
  2. 2. visual codification online: structure
  3. 3. visual codification online: symbols
  4. 4. visual codification online: style
  5. 5. The growing influence of graphic design • Stats Canada: economic contribution of culture outpacing economy; specialized design services up 14.4% 1999-2001; 6.9% 2001-2002 • Bureau of Labor Statistics: graphic design field expected to grow faster than national avg. • California occupational guide: growth rates of 34% for commercial artists, 96% for desktop publishing specialists, and 45% growth for multimedia artists and animators between 1998 and 2008
  6. 6. visual thinking as a service: XPLANE
  7. 7. the creative class and graphic design • (c.f. Florida, 2002) • Economic: accounts for 1/3 US GDP • Social: “derives identity from members’ roles as purveyors of creativity” • Think no-collar workplace; bo-bos (simultaneously bohemian and bourgeois)
  8. 8. the creative class, graphic design and you • “The creative class is the norm-setting class of our time.” • “The final element of the social structure of a supportive social milieu that is open to all forms of creativity...This milieu provides the underlying eco-system or habitat in which the multidimensional forms of creativity take root and flourish...It also facilitates cross- fertilization between and among these forms.”
  9. 9. visual productivity on the web • Hundreds of online exhibits displayed weekly on design portals like,, • k10k receives 100-150 thousand hits per day • Mixture of professional/personal work on display • Example...
  10. 10. visual productivity on the web • Question: what sort of theory can account for this phenomenon?
  11. 11. visual literacy • Work manifests both idiosyncrasy and coherence; appears to be driven by individual interest as well as a collective consciousness. • Each individual piece is (at least, tacitly) part of a larger project • Creative forms represent a mode of discourse where the medium is the message
  12. 12. visual literacy as a condition • meaning-making substrate • representational resources • communicative technology • stabilized form & function visual semiotic visual language visual literacy • receptive/interpretive framework • encultured knowledge and its social implications
  13. 13. visual literacy is a condition... • whereby traditional communicative technologies and forms are reconfigured and reshaped; • it is a communal, rather than an institutional phenomenon; • and it entails the re-codification of imagery and renders visual forms conspicuous once again to our culture
  14. 14. concerning orality and literacy • Aboriginal art in oral cultures characterized by structural, stylistic, and symbolic conventions. • Takes advantage of representational affordances in visual modes of expression. • Effective mode for conveying narrative, ceremonial, cultural meanings.
  15. 15. concerning orality and literacy • McLuhan: “The phonetic alphabet fell like a bombshell, installing sight at the head of the hierarchy of senses. Literacy propelled man from the tribe, gave him an eye for an ear...” • Innis: “The written language was made into an instrument responsive to the demands of the oral tradition. Introduction of the alphabet meant a concern with sound rather than sight or with the ear rather than the eye”
  16. 16. questions?