Journey and Non-Referential Iconography

In a cartoon-styled image from a video game, a red-clad figure looks forward in a blue, shadowy environment.

Image source: Thatgamecompany.

Probably all illustrations, and certainly the animated images I’ve discussed in Frozen and Lilo and Stitch, come freighted with a vast history of associations. Striking images can literally provide worldviews—complex perspectives from which to view matters ranging from gender roles to cultural identities to ideal body types. Frozen’s visual aesthetic offers a triumphantalist account of traditional images put to new uses, while Lilo and Stitch offers a harder-edged criticism of our lazy, self-indulgent ways of looking at the world, for instance. Yet both deliberately and meaningfully comment upon the mediating power of their own iconography. Both films are, in short, particularly focused on understanding how images have worked in the past, and how they can be made to work differently in the future.

Journey is a video game whose cartoon-like visual aesthetic draws strongly from the same animated tradition as the first two films, yet its aims are quite different. In both its gameplay and its visual design, I will argue, Journey is not focused on what it means, but rather on the raw experiences it can provide. The game reminds us, in short, that while images have deep and rich rhetorical histories, they are also something more than mere arguments.

The Artist's Speech

Intertitle from The Artist; white letters against a black background say, "Speak!"

Image Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

H/T: Emily Friedman

The audience hears violins sawing tensely as they watch a man scream on screen; only, he is mute.  He moves his mouth, but we only learn his words through intertitles:  “I won’t talk!  I won’t say a word!!!”  So opens the 2011 Academy Award-winning film The Artist.

Using Creative Commons Images

arriving horizon

Image Credit: "Hospitality II" by Arriving at the Horizon Via Clinamen

For this entry, I want to point out two online texts that model best practices in the use of images.  Both texts also make powerful arguments. The first is Clinamen, an academic blog by James J. Brown, formerly of UT-Austin and the Digital Writing and Research Lab, who now teaches in Detroit at Wayne State.  The image above is from Brown's March 16 post. Indeed, all of Brown's entries are organized by a compelling, and beautiful, image (see screenshot after the break).  

How to write code for images

This page is meant to provide the basics of how to code images for the web.  This link is a starting point for learning to code images. 

Quickguide to Creating web images

Quickguides for Creating Web Images

Size—sizes  vary, but here are some typical sizes (in pixels) for common types of images. You may need to add or subtract or tweak the ratios slightly depending on where you are placing the images (e.g. different themes in Drupal may use different banner sizes).

Banner/Header: 760 Width x 132 Height (about a 5:1 ration)

Logo: 200 x 200

Thumbnail: 90 x 90

Feature Image: 400 x 400


The following is a list of notable image databases and archives.

Click the 'Review' link to access a viz. review of the database.

General Image Databases

American Memory, hosted by the Library of Congress

British Library Images Online

Calisphere, hosted by the University of California

New York Public Library Digital Archives

Tineye, a reverse search engine through which users can learn more about images they already have

UNESCO Photobank, hosted by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

US Government Photos and Images

Databases by topic in alphabetical order:

(*) denotes requires subscription or login and (W) denotes has institutional Watermark on images.


AdAccess, hosted by Duke

Emergence of Advertising in America, hosted by Duke [viz. review]

African-American History

(W) Calvin Littlejohn Archive, hosted by Center for American History, UT-Austin [viz. review]

John H. White Portrait of Black Chicago, hosted by the National Archives [viz. review]

Art and Photography

(*) ARTstor Digital Library, hosted by ARTstor, Inc. Link for UT login.

(*) CAMIO (Catalogue of Art Museum Images Online), hosted by OCLC. Link for UT login.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs

National Veterans Art Museum

Body and Medicine

Historical Anatomies on the Web, hosted by The National Library of Medicine [viz. review]

Dream Anatomies, hosted by The National Library of Medicine [viz. review]

(W) Wellcome Images, hosted by The Wellcome Library, London [viz. Review]

World Health Organization Photo Library [warning: contains images that may be disturbing to non-medical audiences]

Commons & Public Domain Image Databases

Flickr, Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search

Library of Congress Flickr Stream

Search Flickr US Government Works License

Historic Prints

Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection, hosted by Yale [viz. review]

Catalogue of 18th-Century British Mezzotint Satires in North America, hosted by Lewis and Clark [viz. review]


Red Scare Archive, hosted by CUNY [viz. review]

Labor Rights Archive, hosted by [viz. review]

Tamiment Labor Archives Highlights on Flickr


(*) DASe (Digital Archive Services), hosted by Utexas Liberal Arts ITS


American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection

David Rumsey Map Collection  [viz. review]

Municipal Archives

(W) London Metropolitan Archives COLLAGE Image Database

New York City Municipal Archives Images Gallery [viz. review]

Seattle Municipal Archives


(W) Texas Poster Art, hosted by the Briscoe Center at UT-Austin

National Archives

Images Canada

National Archives (UK) Image Library

National Archives (US) Galleries


NASA images

European Space Agency Images

NOAA Photo Library [viz. review]


Life Photo Archive, hosted by Google

William Gedney, hosted by Duke 

(W) (*) Magnum Photos, hosted by Magnum [Viz. Review]

(W) (*) Associated Press, hosted by AP [Review]

Symbols & Iconography

The Noun Project

Technology/Electronic Media

Radical Software, hosted by Radical Software  [Viz. Review]


Portal to Texas History, hosted by the University of North Texas

Photosynth Can Show You the World (or, Maybe Not)

Photosynth image of the Sistine Chapel

Image Credit:  Screenshot from Photosynth

I was delighted this week to have Noel Radley introduce me to an interesting TED talk about Photosynth, a new imaging software created by Microsoft that not only incorporates the ability to get incredible close-ups on images, but also stitches photos together to create larger images.  As they claim on their website, Photosynth “allows you to take a bunch of photos of the same scene or object and automagically stitch them all together into one big interactive 3D viewing experience that you can share with anyone on the web.”  The results, as you can see above, are fairly impressive.

Image Meltdown

A compelling essay on the current money mess by Charles Eisenstein at the eclectic and ambitious web magazine, Reality Sandwich, offers the following perspective on the larger meaning of “meltdown”:

Obama's Design

As far as design goes, Obama has already won the presidency according to this New York Times article.

Obama's campaign posters showing his face in profile and the words

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