Document Type

Conference Proceeding


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




This article was originally published as: Medley, S. (2013). Designing withiImages: Using a realism continuum to choose pictures for communication tasks. In ACUADS Conference 2012: Region and Isolation: The changing function of art & design education within diasporic cultures and borderless communities. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools (ACUADS). Original article available here.


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.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Australia License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Australia License.