Project 1 Looking for Visual Communication: Research

What is mass media?

My workbook asks me to consider a quote from the 1964 book Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan; “the medium is the message”. Trying to consider this applied to visual communications rather than just aesthetics or art is interesting. I think the medium does have a large impact on our understanding or perhaps more importantly acceptance of the message. For instance I feel more at ease accepting something as fact coming from the BBC News website or article than I do from a gossip webpage or ‘fan-site’. Thinking about something like advertising, a billboard or poster in a container by a bus stop or even on a bus, says ‘this is an advert’, really ‘you should consider buying this’. In the digital age it’s interesting to see advertising coming through Vloggers – people who share they’re world or hobbies through video’s on-line/namely on YouTube. A lot of these video’s have become platforms for advertising, but I think the medium of an advert delivered by an ‘ordinary person’, in an informal manner has a disarming affect. For arguments sake here’s an example from a Vlogger whose YouTube channel is called ViviannaDoesMakeUp.

There are several reading points to this research, I want to start with an article about Marshall McLuhan seeing as we were asked to consider a quote by him. I’d not heard of or been introduced to McLuhan before and I’d be interested to read some of his works. I’m going to buy his book Understanding Media, simply because it seems to be regarded as an in-depth analysis of a variety of methods of communication, and that seems interesting/relevant. I wish I’d known about him when I’d done my previous module in Graphic Design.

Notes on Communication Theory, Whitney Davis:

In the article Davis, refers to Jakobson’s analysis of communications and introduced me to his six factors of communication – ‘the addresser, addressee, message, code, context and contact’. This model reminds me of Aristotle’s theories around plot development, mostly just in format. I think the article also brings to the forefront the issue of intention in communication. Intention seems fairly tricky – the addresser may have had a clear intention or hidden or subconscious intention which informed their method of communication or language use. The addressee also then has to be able to decipher that intention correctly. It seems to me that communication theory has to take in societal factors, physiological factors as well as semantics to come to some conclusions.

Notes on Design, Penny Sparke:

It was interesting to read the Design essay; it helped to put into historical context or sense some aspects of Design which had seemed a bit of a mystery to me. Particularly how  the design process had been divided from the crafting of an object or work, leading to people who specialised entirely in the planning of and preparation of an item before it’s actual production. From a personal point of view I’m interested to find out more about the Arts and Crafts Movement, as a means to understanding where the resurgence of designer makers actually originated from. I can certainly identity with feeling that most people now feel they have a sense of what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design is and advertisers have worked hard to introduce something as “designer made” to add a sense of value or luxury. But I feel sometimes this is fraudulent, can a mass produced item ever be truly luxury?

Notes on Visual Culture:

The idea of the study of Visual Culture, seems perfectly rational to me. But  reading the article I became aware that for those of another generation who did not grow up  alongside the growth of the internet or social media/communication or even the mass of television programmes today might find it an odd thing to look into. I also found it funny to read about the definition of  high culture and low culture, I think these still exist today, but are diminishing in their power with time. One particular line stood out – “Culture is thus produced in complex networks of exchange through which meanings are co-created by members of a society or group”, I read that as a from of communication between different parties. In the second to last paragraph the importance of “the emergence of digital media and a networked society”, “images circulate today instantaneously. Media events are global”, rings true. I am reminded of images from the migrant crisis of a young boy who had tragically died, washed to shore, which seemed to fill Facebook pages for weeks.

Notes on Commercial art:

This article seemed to pay particular attention to naming artists or design houses which contributed to the emergence of commercial/graphic art. I wanted to make a note of those names here, but under the category of the country they came from. Purely just a quick reference point for me to come back to should I need to:

French Commercial artists:

  • Jules Cheret
  • Henri de Toulouse-Laurtrec
  • Print Studio – Chaix & Compagnie
  • Cassandre
  • Jean Carleu

British Commercial artists:

  • Baynard Press England
  • W.S.Crawford and Son
  • The London Press exchange
  • Tom Purvis
  • Frank Newbould
  • Ashley Havinden
  • McKnight Kauffer
  • Herbert Bayer
  • Tom Eckersley

Dutch Commercial artists:

  • Paul Schuitema

Swiss Commercial artists:

  • ‘Swiss Graphics’
  • Josef Muller-Brockman
  • Matter

Russian Commercial artists:

  • Aleksandr Rodchenko
  • El Lissitzky


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