Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools (ACUADS)
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communication and Arts/Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Graphic design has historically been concerned with giving identity to clients’ projects. But what of its own identity? Graphic design and typography have become interchangeable terms, to the detriment of any theoretical position on pictures. This paper explains the necessity of a theory of pictures specific to the graphic design discipline. Bamford (2003) says there can’t be a vocabulary of images since it would be as limitless as the imagination and graphic skills of humanity. But a search for a vocabulary of images is a red herring for graphic design. Typography is less about what is spoken and more about how it is spoken. Similarly, picture choice for graphic designers need not concern itself unduly with image; with what is shown, but rather with pictures; how it is shown. Type theory covers choice of type appropriate to the communication. Picture theory for designers might reasonably be expected to work similarly: provide a basis for choosing pictures. The realism continuum is a visual model that presents any image as a series of pictures, iteratively reduced in representation from their referent. This paper explains how knowledge of the continuum and the human visual system can assist the designer or art director to choose pictures pertinent to a communications task, and assist the design educator to explain picture choice to students. As designers we have had plenty of text to back us up when we argue for the use of a particular typeface or layout. Now we need words about pictures.