Language of Vision

When I began this project I wasn’t exactly looking for a specific book to “judge.” As I wasn’t overly familiar with any of the books on the list, I really just wanted to pick one up and start exploring. I walked over the the reserved section at the Design Library, grabbed an off-white spine from the bookshelf, and found myself staring at the Language of Vision.

My first impression was the simplistic design on the front cover of the book. It feels very direct; the title and author name are both in a bold, san serif font centered along the vertical axis. I found it interesting that the title and authors name are of very similar size, with the title being slightly larger. Between the title and author are three abstract images, centered-aligned as well. I then noticed the relationship between these three images. The first is three colored diamonds that are organized to create the image of a 3D cube. In the next, those three diamonds are now spread across the black background, like an exploding cube. The final image, is an abstract image featuring rectangles of the same color palette from the first two images. The spine of the book has the title and author name with the same relationship as the front cover.

When I flipped to the back cover I noticed it followed with the simplistic design style. Again, the title and authors name are centered on the page. A few paragraphs of summaries and reviews are left justified in a serif font, organized as a block in the center of the back cover. One of the most questioning pieces I found on the cover was the accreditation stating “cover design by Teresa J. Delgado.” This type was rotated 90 degrees to the right, running along the spine of the book. I found it extremely interesting to set this type in this fashion.

The cover possibly used to be white, although it is now more of a cream/off-white color. The book is about the size of a letter paper, slightly longer and slightly thinner. It feels more like a workbook than a textbook; it has a paperback binding that is slightly tearing on the top and bottom near the spine. The cover is a thicker, glossy paper compared to the thinner, matte pages. The pages are slightly off-white and stiff when turned, creating a crackling noise; they’ve seen better days.

I thought the straightforward cover design was very interesting. The title “Language of Vision” is sort of broad yet it still gauges my interest. Finally the three images in a sequence on the cover I referred to earlier sort of symbolizes the idea that the same “concept” can communicate different ideas visually. I also thought the “workbook-style” binding and assembly was extremely interesting. I wanted to know why they made it look like this. Why isn’t it in some beautiful hardcover binding with elaborate printing?

As far as within the book, the insides of the front and back cover poses images similar to the cover images. Beneath some of the images are page references, although there is no description of the images or what is going to be referred to. As I flipped from spread to spread, I noticed the large margins on the outer sides of the pages to hold illustrations, diagrams, and photos when necessary. The book uses a large variety of visuals such as photos, diagrams, illustrations, and symbolic graphics. The pages and spreads have a liberal grid structure from what I can tell. The text pages have one column for text and a smaller column for images; the photo spreads have no sense of a grid. Spreads with a lot of photos are images seemed to be organized based on the importance of the images. Images that need to be greatly emphasized are set large, while smaller images are more of supplementary examples. While the structure of the book may not be rigid, I find the hierarchy of the book to still remain strong.

This book is in this collection due to its impact on art education and the inspirational success of the author György Kepes. Language of Vision was first published in 1944 and quickly became one of the most popular books for art education in the 40s and 50s. In a dissertation regarding Language of Vision, Leigh Anne Roach stated that “while Kepes did not introduce a new form of visualization or representation, he melded the many strands of exploration and experimentation in twentieth-century visual rhetoric into an overarching synthesis.” (Roach 2) Throughout Language of Vision, Kepes consistently explains different concepts of visual communication throughout each section. He discusses the form of the visuals themselves and also how the viewer understands and experiences visuals. Since then, the book has continued to have strong emphasis and meaning in the visual communication field and art education.

György Kepes was an inspirational artist, designer, and educator throughout his entire life. He routinely became interested and explored new technologies of his time, such as photography and cinema. According to his MIT profile, where Kepes taught for 27 years, Language of Vision “set out his theories on the impact of the “new” technologies of photography, cinema, and television on visual culture.” (MIT) Although it was these technologies at the time, Kepes’ universal approach to each topic allows the reader to apply the concepts to the current technologies of a given time.

Language of Vision was the first of a handful of books authored by Kepes throughout his career. This book set the foundation for Kepes’ future book topics, exploring the relationship between art and science. At the time there wasn’t much overlap in the fields, although “Kepes was convinced that there existed a symbiotic relationship between the two, which would only grow stronger when nourished by each other.” (Bijvoet) Kepes had a unique way of discussing visual communication involvement with scientific concepts and technologies, some that weren’t previously discussed together. This approach will allow his work and ideas, specifically Language of Vision, to be a resource for students, educators, and designers for generations.


Cover Design of Language of Vision by Gyorgy Kepes
Photo by Matthew Norton


Bijvoet, Marga. “György Kepes.” Monoskop,

MIT. “György Kepes.” MIT program in art, culture and technology,

Roach, Leigh Anne. “A Positive, Popular Art: Sources, Structure, and Impact of Gyorgy Kepes’s Language of Vision.” Florida State University, 2010,