Revolution Lullabye

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

January 16, 2009

Lupton and Phillips, Graphic Design

Lupton, Ellen and Jennifer Cole Phillips. Graphic Design: The New Basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

This book was written out of response to the recent postmodern trend in graphic design, which emphasizes non-transferrable, customized, and context-specific design. Instead, the authors focus on the basic fundamental elements of graphic design, modeling the Bauhaus school of design, which “analyzed form in terms of basic geometric elements” (8). The goal of this type of focus is to understand graphic design on an intermediate, meso level: to understand design structurally, developing common language and vocabulary for which to talk about design across media. Even though the chapters focus on “the formal elements and phenomena of design” out of context, the authors acknowledge that in practice, “those components mix and overlap” (11). The elements and phenomena that are discussed include traditional ones that were studied at Bauhaus, like point, line, and plane, scale, texture, and figure/ground and more recent elements that are increasingly considered when designing with digital tools, like layers and transparency. Each chapter includes several student design projects from undergraduate and graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA.)

Quotable Quotes

“Today, the impure, the contaminated, and the hybrid hold as much allure as forms that are sleek and perfected. Visual thinkers often seek to spin out intricate results from simple rules or concepts rather than reduce an image or idea to its simplest parts” (8)

All design happens at some level “from the interaction of points, lines, and planes” (13)

“Balance is a fundamental human condition” (29) We need it physically, mentally, politically

“Balance and rhythm work together to create works of design that pulse with life, achieving both stability and surprise” (29)

“Frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object…They are part of the fundamental architecture of graphic design” (101)

“Design is the conscious effort to impose a meaningful order” (115) Victor Papanek quote

Notable Notes

How does form work? – central question of text

Chapters: Point, Line, Plane; Rhythm and Balance; Scale; Texture; Color; Figure/Ground; Framing; Hierarchy; Layers; Transparency; Modularity; Grid; Pattern; Diagram; Time and Motion; Rules and Randomness

Bauhaus is a German institute of design

Line is an infinite series of points; a plane is a moving line

Bezier curve is a line with an anchor and control points

scale is both objective and subjective. Things that lack scale have no cues that connect it to physical reality; a lack of scale contrast results in dull design.

Horizontal and vertical scaling

Figure/Ground tension – Vanderbilt University mark

Framing – margins and bleeds

designs of tables of contents (116-117)

hierarchy exercises with lines of text, like a concert program (118)

modularity is working within constraints

patterns arise out of three basic forms: dots (isolated forms), stripes(linear forms), and grids (interaction of the two)

Create a free website or blog at