Communication Design is an interdisciplinary practice that involves, aesthetically trained craftsmanship, intellectual curiosity, technical dexterity, and creative talent. It is concerned with the analysis, organization and methods of presentation of visual solutions to communication problems. According to cognitive neurologists the way our brain works is trough seeing multiple images of our surroundings at once. Like all other comprehension processes, our brain armed with a “blueprint” of a concept, provided to it by cultural and biological environment, tries to decipher various observed signs. These signs are transmitted by the eyes in their persistent search for clues in a process of “visual inspection” of the world. The process continues until the brain would find a replica that would satisfy the main characteristics of the aforementioned blueprint. This convinces the brain that it has arrived at a moment of understanding. The visual communication tries to emulate and enhance this process in an efficient and timely manner, so that, upon seeing a visual design, many of observers arrive at the same moment of understanding.
Based on this theoretical paradigm, the term Visual Communication in the modern world has expanded markedly to incorporate activities at large exhibitions, socio-political signage projects, corporate logos, scientific expositions, social engineering, fashion design, street art and so on, as well as the traditional demarcation of graphic design encompassing; typography , posters, magazine layouts, book covers, and advertisement. Furthermore, with the advent of the worldwide web and internet, there has been another rapid expansion of the field in the digital universe of blogs, and websites. As Dietmar Winkler, the former director of the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois has argued; design theory cannot be separated from evolving contemporary and future professional practices. An analysis of design issues must be in the context of a theory that incorporates the historical realities of design practices.
Most people agree that the images such as as those of twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001, or that of the brief student uprising in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, with a lone protester standing defiantly in front of a line of menacing green Chinese tanks have been etched in our minds for the rest our lives. This is not only because these are highly emotional images, but because we have reflected on the philosophical, cultural, political, social, and economical significance of such images with words. According to studies cited by educational psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University people only remember ten percent of what they hear, thirty percent of what they read, but about eighty percent of what they see and do. In other words, words are easily forgotten, but pictures stay in our minds. In today’s world, because of integration of the visual media and computers, through phenomena such as YouTube, and Facebook words and pictures have integrated to create a formidable and ubiquitous mode of communication.
Different modes of communication
The great documentary photographer, Lewis Hine, who often used words to accompany his photographs once said, “If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.” It is beyond question that words and pictures are different modes of communication. But each possess a language that some can interpret better than others. As photographic historian Helmut Gernsheim writes;
“Photography is the only ‘language’ understood in all parts of the world, and bridging all nations and cultures.” On the other hand, photography philosopher John Berger admits that “photographs supply information without having a language of their own. Photographs quote rather than translate from reality.” Sol Worth, an expert of visual communication wrote of a compromise between the two points. “Pictures are not a language in the verbal sense. Pictures have no lexicon nor syntax in a formal grammarian’s sense. But they do have form, structure, convention and rules.”
However, some of these ideas are being challenged today. In fact, the semiotic approach to visual communication stresses the idea that images are a collection of signs, which are linked together according to some grammatical rules. Both the visual communicator and the viewer need to understand this grammar so that they would be able to communicate various layers of meanings. In such a paradigm the role of observer cannot be a detached and indifferent one. On the contrary, the observer must engage in visual communication and participate fully in the realization of meanings. On the other side, the role of the designer is not just to offer a visual message about a particular issue but rather to identify and call out issues and concerns that confronts the viewers’ humanity and integrity.