II. Outline of the Entire Process of Graphic Production

This part of Graphic Language bounces ideas off of Bowman (1968), and side-bar excerpts from his practical knowledge.

A. Starting Up


Purpose: The 13 Basic Communicative Aims

If we exclude the propaganda of politics, religion and industrial advertising, there are still a dozen or more basic visual communicative aims. Many are complimentary, and their purpose is often to externalize our own thoughts (see what it is that we are thinking), and then share those thoughts with others. Thirteen basic communicative aims are recognized by Bowman (Box CAB).

Box CAB.

      Emphasizing more than mere appearances, the Kuchka goal for graphics is an amalgam of three aims. We want to effectively reveal more than can normally be seen of the structure, organization, and behavior of our subject matter. Communicative aims are partly emergent properties, part of the creative graphic act. This is largely because we have not foreseen what our skills, and all-too-short flashes of genius, will enable us to communicate in any particular instance. But we know that we want to see further, deeper than what we have seen before.       The next step in the production process is to begin to imagine how the relevant subject matter can be translated into visual representations.       

The Thinking Drawing: The 3 Basic Modes of Visual Translation

A “thinking drawing” translates a conceptualization into a rudimentary visual representation, ignoring precision and refinement. It is an informal conceptual sketch. Creating a thinking drawing is the first stage.

Figure TD. Thought Drawing From Charles Darwin’s Notebook B (1837). The balloons and text annotations for this sketch of the ‘tree of life’ read: I think; Case must be that one generation then should be as many living as now; To do this & to have many species in same genus (as is) requires extinction; Thus between A & B immens[sic] gap of relation. C & B the finest gradation. B & D rather greater distinction. Thus genera would be formed. – bearing relation…(page 36 ends). [page 37 begins: …to ancient types – with several extinct forms…] See Kohn (1987) for the Notebook B transcription, editorial notes, and the date of 1837. In this computer copy of page 36 of Notebook B, the edge of the notebook has been regularized somewhat, and the background ink bleeding thru from the writing on the back side of the page has been partially removed for a clearer viewing. The copyright for the original image of this page is held by the Cambridge University Library.

      This informal sketch draws upon basic form concepts (esp. points, lines, shapes and textures), informal media (esp. the pencil with 4B lead, and the Staedtler eraser), and constructs specific elements and spatial forms that begin to identify the visual idea. Its meaning is created by what is shown and how, and what is not shown. A famous example of such a thinking drawing is Charles Darwin’s tree of life (Figure TD). This informal conceptual sketch from his diaries uses an imaginative branching pattern, some labeling, thought balloons, text annotations, and an undifferentiated backdrop of white space, to visually translate and animate his nascent ideas about the organic nature of species relations over time. It is a visual translation of thought into images.

Box VTB.

      Bowman (1968) recognizes three basic modes of visual translation (see Box VTB). (Also see Appendix I for our semantic dissent from some of Bowman’s terminology, and that of unnamed others.) Bowman’s treatment of objective translation joins the concepts of apparent visual reality and the creation of illusions. Iconic translation, in contrast, removes features that are not visually essential. Alternatively, abstract translation uses formalized elements that are largely independent of specific forms experienced in the sensory world. Bowman’s treatment is important because, among other things, it begins to alert us to the heightened modern capacity for mere appearance and illusion, while acknowledging the other centuries old graphic capacities for iconic and abstract translations. Darwin’s tree-of-life graphic, for example, relies on the iconic and abstract modes of visual representation. These are commonly conjoined modes of translation in the lives of thought. Further along we will have more to say on these modes and apparent-reality illusions. We will begin to sharpen the mind’s eye to the apparent-reality illusions of iconic and abstract translations.

You are here