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Value of Visual Design

  • What is design?
  • What goes into a design?
  • How can I apply what I learn about design to shape my environment? to improve my visual communication? to change the world?

So when I first thought about the first question, my science geek of a brain immediately thought of fractals.  This may be because I wrote a camp about 6 years ago called Nature’s Architects and it was where I first learned about the vastness of what a fractal is and still find myself occasionally noticing them. They are EVERYWHERE so if you go looking, don’t let your mind become blown. If you want to learn more about fractals I suggest watching the video below when you have an extra hour to spare.

Below is a video by a little girl about fractals.  I love when kids create stuff like this.  It makes me want to scream “Yay, science!” , or I guess math could get a shout out for this one too….I guess.

The articles we read for class made me think a lot more about our written language, how it was formed, how it took on so many different forms, how some cultures are more pictorial than others.  Our world is truly a world of diverse visual communication!  One statement that also had me thinking was in Robert N. St. Clair’s, Visual Metaphors.

“ As writing instruments changed, the writing systems changed.”

So I want everyone to start paying attention to this because ever since someone pointed it out to me I notice it all the time, even with myself.  A teacher friend commented how her new Kindergartners were struggling with writing their names this year- more so than the norm.  Not so much because they couldn’t spell their own name or recognize the letters, but because a vast number of kids had trouble manipulating the pencil.  Now think back to when you were very young.  What was a big part of your life?  Coloring and drawing.  Kids still do that these days, but more and more frequently they are essentially “finger painting” on smart tablets.  Now I’m all for conserving paper and if I had kids I would totally let them draw and paint on a smart tablet.  But we didn’t stop to think about how this is making things like holding a pencil more and more foreign to them.  I’m not saying I’m for or against the use of a smart tablet by any means. But I did suggest to one of my friends that she get a stylus for her 3 year old to start practicing with when he draws on a tablet (he actually likes to use crayons and paper too so I’m not worried about him).

But all of that above also makes you wonder how our visual communication will continue to change?  I’ve heard that in the near future they will stop teaching cursive.  Cursive is a different design then print.  I really don’t care if we stop teaching it, I haven’t used it since they made me in elementary school other than to sign my name, which to be honest, is a hybrid of cursive and print.  But then we think about signatures- if there is no cursive, how will they next generation sign their legal documents?  Will they even be able to read anything written in cursive or will it be like trying to read Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks? Will kids of future generations even need to even “write” anything, or will it all be typed and touched on a screen?  Steven Bradley’s “communication design” becomes much more meaningful and valuable when you think about how the handwritten word may one day be obsolete.  The elemental functions of life are really driven be design.

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