micklethwait's blog

Updates to Theory and Assignments

There's a new page in our theory section on graphic design. It gives a brief overview of the history and elements of graphic design theory, which is basically a practical application of theories of visual rhetoric. Supplemental to this article is a new unit-length argumentative assignment that uses Adobe InDesign, a computer-based publishing tool, to create publishable proposal documents.

Type Directors Club

After putting together my own rudimentary bibliography on graphic design, an old acquaintance posted a link on Facebook to this bibliography of around 50 books on typography at the Type Directors Club.

The Type Directors Club

Plenty of summer reading.

Digital Manipulation and the Ethics of Representation

An article this week on Stinky Journalism, Danielle Mastropiero's "Photoshopped Images Booted from Press Photo Contest," calls to mind a couple of other similar incidents in recent memory: first, Adnan Hajj's laughably bad Photoshop manipulations of smoke plumes over Beirut during Israel's summer '06 bombing campaign; and second, Iran's equally laughable manipulation of publicity photos from their summer '08 test missile test launch.

Retouched and Un-Retouched photos of Haiti
Image source: Stinky Journalism.org

Click on 'voteringen' in the menu of this Flash-animated comparison of Christensen's submitted photographs, their RAW files, and the Photoshop auto-corrections.

Time Lapse Unemployment, USA 01/07-02/09

At a glance, this map created by Chris Wilson at Slate.com is pretty terrifying with its Strangelove-esque red mushrooms evaporating the United States' industrial centers.

Slate unemployment map still

Image captured from Slate.com

Caricatures of Obama, Continued

A simple prediction: the new comic series Barack the Barbarian and Drafted from Devil's Due Press (mentioned in an April 4 Chicago Tribune report) are less likely to offend than the political cartoons Nate blogged about several months ago.

Barack the Barbarian cover
Image credit: Devil's Due Press.

The New Facebook Layout and Visual Culture

Maybe it's trite to bring up the new Facebook layout, but the current stink about the second major redesign of the site in less than a year exposes a frightening level of mass narcissism in the evolution of graphic design. For just a random sampling of news articles and blog postings on this topic, just look here, and here, and here (Facebook's own poll of user reactions).

Facebook Lay Out Vote application

Terror and Visual Semiotics

The March 9, 2009, issue of Newsweek Magazine inadvertently draws attention to a pathic characteristic of graphic design: the capacity of visual images to create emotional appeals.

newsweek cover radical islam

The design of this magazine cover uses color--the pure green background--to evoke the political flags of nations like Libya and Saudi Arabia and political parties like Hamas. The surprising thing is the text itself. The Arabic script here, though meaningful in itself to those who can read it, is reduced to a simply visual signifier as its 'literal' meaning to the readers of Newsweek is made parenthetical. The Arabic text here seems geared solely toward evoking fear and apprehension in the non-Arabic speaking audience.

However, I would certainly praise Newsweek for their decision to avoid the stereotypical images that have become iconic of radical Islam in Western media (chanting crowds, burning flags and effigies, suicide bomb vests, 'Quranic' calligraphy, etc.) in favor of a simple textual presentation.

But why the seemingly gratuitous use of the Arabic script?

The article in question is available to read online.

Helvetica and Shapes of Things to Come

A few weeks ago I caught an episode of Independent Lens on PBS about the font Helvetica.

In the undisputed manifesto of modern graphic design, The New Typography, author Jan Tschichold argues in vaguely Heideggerian terms that modernity requires a typeface consistent with its worldview. In fact, typeface has always been consistent, in his opinion, with the worldview of the civilization that used it, insofar as he sees that worldview as an expression of the relationship between with individual, the whole of society, and the technae they employ to shape and frame the world around them.

Then over the last week I caught sight of this pair of advertisements for the typeface Helvetica font featured on Ffffound.com.

http://viz.cwrl.utexas.edu/files/helvetica-ad.jpg alt="sexist helvetica ad" class="center" width="180">

Image from Ffffound.com.

neue helvetica ad

Image from Ffffound.com.

Arab Image Foundation

The progressive deconstruction of Orientalism is catching up with information technology. Since 1996, the Arab Image Foundation, based in Lebanon, has been amassing a digital collection of photographs from the Arab world.

"I Can Read Movies"

This is my first blog for Viz., so I thought I'd post some lighthearted fare from ffffound.com.

The picture below, part of a series of visualizations of film titles, really grabbed me.

I Can Read Movies Temple of Doom

The rest of them can be found here at Space Sick's website.

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