Communications Title Pages8/3/041:11 PMPage 1CommunicationDesign

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Communications Title Pages8/3/041:11 PMPage 2CommunicationDesignPrinciples,Methods,a ND PRACTICEJorgeFrascaraALLWORTH PRESSNEW YORK

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage iv Jorge FrascaraAll rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention,Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American CopyrightConvention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in aretrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without priorpermission of the publisher.08 07 06 05 045 4 3 2 1Published by Allworth PressAn imprint of Allworth Communications, Inc.10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010Cover design by Derek BacchusPage design, composition, and typography by Sharp Des!gns, Lansing, MIlibrary of congress cataloging-in-publication dataFrascara, Jorge.Communication design : principles, methods, and practice / Jorge Frascara.p. cm.ISBN: 1-58115-365-1Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Commercial art. 2. Graphic arts. 3. Visual communication. I. Title.NC997.F695 741.6—dc222004018346Printed in Canada

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage vTo my wife, Guillermina Noël

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CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage viiContentsxixiiiIntroduction11 A Description of the Field334Design and CommunicationThe Designer and Other Professionals“Graphic Design” versus “VisualCommunication Design”The Presence of the Designer in the MessageInformation, Redundancy, and NoiseReality and CreativityCreativity and CommunicationCommunication and AestheticsThe Main Purpose of Visual CommunicationDesign569101112viiAcknowledgments

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage viiicommunication design152 Historical Context172232The Nineteenth CenturyThe Twentieth CenturyThe Design of Typefaces573 Design Principles: FunctionalRequirements58626374Perception and MeaningLanguage and SignificationCommunicationAesthetics914 Methods and Planning9395122Design MethodsThe Design ProcessThe Design Process: Two Examples1295 The Practice: Professional Areas129138152160167167Design for InformationDesign for PersuasionDesign for EducationDesign for AdministrationElements and SystemsTwo Dimensions, Three Dimensions,and Movementviii

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage ixcontentsix1696 Computer Technologies andCommunication Design170172The Computer as a Production ToolDesign for Electronic Media1857 Culture and Society189Conclusion191Bibliography196Index

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CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage xiAcknowledgmentsi owe what i am to all those who,some- how or other, have had a profound effect onmy life. Sometimes through an influential sentence,sometimes through years shared, sometimes throughtheir work. Herbert Spencer taught me to do fieldresearch in a forty-five-minute conversation in 1974.In another forty-five-minute conversation ten yearslater, Paul Rand made me see the value of looking atone’s own work with a critical eye. At a conference inZurich in 1977, Richard Saul Wurman said two thingsthat stuck in my mind because of their clarity anddirectness. When it comes to being clear and direct,I keep on learning from Ronald Shakespear and fromGérard Paris-Clavel. Working with Tom Nelson hasbeen a permanent source of learning and joy. Thework of Armin Hofmann and Juan Carlos Distéfanomade me think about form, back in the 1960s. TomásMaldonado taught me the value of always beingvigilant and informed. Rubén Fontana, the power oftenacity and humility. From Juan Carrera I learned toxi

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage xiicommunication designthink critically, to put things together and to takethem apart, to see the patterns that connect, asGregory Bateson would put it. Bernd Meurer mademe discover different ways of looking at everything:the principles behind the instances of design action.To Ronald Davey I owe a sensitivity to precision inlanguage and a huge debt for my coming to Canada.I owe lots of joy and learning to Steve Heller, JohnAston, Peter Kneebone, Willy DeMajo, SusumuSakane, Marijke Singer, Paul Stiff, Paul Mijksenaar,Erskine Childers, Dietmar Winkler, SharonPoggenpohl, Karel van der Waarde, David Sless, andmany others. And the list keeps on growing. Thereferences in this book show authors to whom I owemany ideas, as well as to others I do not explicitly cite,such as Anthony Wilden, Gilles Deleuze, and FelixGuatari. To my colleagues Sue Colberg and BonnieSadler Takach, my thanks for their support and theircontinuing friendship. My wife, Guillermina Noël,taught me how valuable and enjoyable all these thingscan be, and continues to keep me vigilant abouteverything I say. I thank Nicole Potter and TadCrawford at Allworth Press for the opportunity tomake this work public.xii

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage xiiiIntroductionthis book is intended to outline thefield of communication design, its areas of concern,its working methods, and its purposes. It is directedat visual communication design students (not atexperienced designers) and includes discussions ofsome areas that are bound to grow and change in thisera of information explosion and technologicalinnovation.The demand for designers is greater than ever. This isparticularly true because of the fast development ofnew communication technologies and the need topay attention to human factors that are outside theexpertise of computer scientists. Beyond recognizingthis phenomenon as a context, this book centerson visual communication design as a humancommunication problem—not as a technologicalproblem—and focuses on essential aspects of theprofession and of the education of designers.xiii

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage xivcommunication designThis book will point out important issues in theprofession, but does not claim to provide acomprehensive survey. More than defining boundaries,it intends to identify relevant issues and their impacton the practice.Some subjects have been developed more than others.This is sometimes because of the greater experienceof the author in certain areas; sometimes because agiven problem is more important than others; andsometimes because certain topics have, to a greatextent, been left out by most of the literature.The book is written in plain language, avoiding theneologisms and jargon that often create a mystiqueabout certain problems, and make the statementsappear more scientific or sophisticated than theyactually are. This fictitious scientism or pretentiouslanguage produces a false sense of certainty thatreduces the complexity, scope, and richness of visualcommunication design problems. Hence this book hasmore descriptions than definitions, and its vocabularyis not extensive.There are several reasons why terms from linguisticsdo not appear often in this book: The visual languagedoes not have finite dictionaries or glossaries, andtherefore the linguistic duality of signifier/signified isinapplicable. The interpreter plays a more decisive rolewhen looking at images than when reading or hearingwords, and the power of contexts adds anotherelement of uncertainty to the visual language. I preferto say “organization” rather than “syntax” (althoughxiv

CommDesign 00 a09/03/041:47 PMPage xvintroduction“syntax” might appear here and there), because“syntax” is a special kind of organization, applied toverbal sequences, in which a series of rules governsentence structure. The term “organization” is broaderand more appropriate for visual communicationsbecause it confronts the reader with the infinitepossibilities of elements and arrangements, insteadof creating the notion of limitation that the word“syntax” denotes.Elements from rhetoric could have been discussed ifthe book dealt more with a linguistics-based theoryof communication, but this is not the purpose ofthis text. It is, instead, directed at discussing visualcommunication design from the experience of apractitioner and with a social sciences–oriented pointof view.Comments and criticism are welcome.jorge frascaraDepartment of Art and DesignUniversity of AlbertaEdmonton, Alberta, T6G

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CommDesign 0109/03/041:47 PMPage 1CHAPTER 1A Descriptionof the Fieldthe term “visual communication design” issubject to a long series of interpretations. The differentdefinitions of the word “design” in everyday languagehave contributed to a lack of precision in understanding the job of the visual communication designer.Design is generally understood as the physical productderived from the activity, but the activity itself is oftenoverlooked. Expressions such as “the beautiful designsof aboriginal fabrics” incorrectly use the term “design”instead of more appropriate terms like “ornaments,”“decorations,” or “patterns.” People also speak of thebeauty of the designs that the waves leave on thebeach, or other natural forms. When a profession’sname includes a word that refers as much to a naturalobject as to an activity and an industrial product, therewill certainly be confusion in the minds of many.Whereas the public tends to perceive “design” asreferring to objects, designers tend to center the wordon action, and see the product as a final step in a longjourney. To design, for the contemporary designer, is1

CommDesign 0109/03/041:47 PMPage 2communication designan intentional activity. It is connected to neither themarks on the beach nor the repetition of a traditionalornamentation. To design is to invent, to project, toprogram, to coordinate a long list of human andtechnical factors, to translate the invisible into thevisible, and to communicate. It involves judgmentcalls, the implementation of knowledge, thegeneration of new knowledge, and the use of educatedintuition and decision-making. In this book, theword “design” will be used to refer to the processof conceiving, planning, projecting, coordinating,selecting, and organizing a series of elements—normally textual and visual—for the creation of visualcommunications. The word “design” will also be usedin relation to the objects created by that process. Thewords “visual communication” modify the word“design,” and relate it to the production of visualobjects aimed at communicating specific messages.The three words put together, “visual communicationdesign,” overflow the sum of their individualmeanings to become the name of a profession whosedescription is in part the aim of this book. To proposea working definition for now, I would say that visualcommunication design, seen as an activity, is theaction of conceiving, programming, projecting, andrealizing visual communications that are usuallyproduced through industrial means and are aimed atbroadcasting specific messages to specific sectors ofthe public. This is done with a view toward having animpact on the public’s knowledge, attitudes, orbehavior in an intended direction. A graphic designis an object created by that activity (Gorb 6).2

CommDesign 0109/03/041:47 PMPage 3a description of the fieldDesign and CommunicationThe visual communication designer works on theinterpretation, organization, and visual presentation ofmessages. Sensitivity toward form should go hand inhand with sensitivity toward content. Publicationdesigners organize not only typography but alsowords. Their work concentrates on the effectiveness,appropriateness, beauty, and economy of the messages.This job, beyond cosmetics, has to do with theplanning and structuring, production, and evaluationof communications.The Designer and Other ProfessionalsRarely does the communication designer work withtext-free images. In advertising, the writer is in mostcases a key member of the communication team. Inother areas, such as the design of books and bookcovers, a preexisting text drives the content to bevisualized.In many cases, the designer requires contributionsfrom photographers, illustrators, animators, computerprogrammers, calligraphers, and draftsmen; otherspecialists who are less connected to the designprofession are often needed as well, depending on thecontent and the audience of a given project. Thedesigner must consider equally the communicationalstrategy and its realization the way a music conductormust know the range of the instruments without3

CommDesign 0109/03/041:47 PMPage 4communication designnecessarily knowing how to play them all. Fundamentally, the designer’s job is that of a coordinator.Visual communication designers coordinate research,conception, and realization, hiring specialists andusing information related to the needs of each project.Given that the job of the designers includesinteracting with other specialists, they must have anability to work in interdisciplinary teams and toestablish good interpersonal relations. In the finalanalysis, designers are specialists in humancommunication, and their specific medium is visual.“Graphic Design” versus “VisualCommunication Design”It is necessary to recognize that the term “graphicdesigner” has contributed to the obscure profile of theprofession. Although better than “graphic artist” andfar better than “artist,” the term still places too muchemphasis on the graphic, physical element and omitsmore essential aspects of the profession—the mainaim of which is not the creation of graphic forms butthe creation of effective communications. Althoughthe most widely accepted term is indeed “graphicdesigner,” it is more descriptive and appropriate tosay “visual communication designer,” because thisdefinition includes three essential elements of theprofession: a method (design); an objective(communication); and a medium (vision).4

CommDesign 0109/03/041:47 PMPage 5a description of the fieldThe Presence of the Designerin the MessageDesigners—as opposed to artists—are not normallythe source of the messages that they communicate