View Full Version : The processing of building a visual language

04 April 2005, 06:49 PM
Hi, i'm a 2nd year student of visual communication (aka graphic design and a bit more). And I'm wondering if anyone can show or link a process of building a visual language - doesn't matter of what's the final product, but the process of thinking, the inspiration, the processing of the shapes, the colors to abstract shapes and forms, compositions...

For me personally, I'm curios more about abstract things, layouts, visual language as for designing a poster or magazine. Though even characters, landscapes, vehicles, other objects or any other thing can be interesting, and I believe for everyone! :)

04 April 2005, 06:55 PM
Well, individual visual poetry is the search of every artist. And studying this question, and if you want, private message me in order to exchange msn messenger contacts so that we discuss this more deeply.

But just to get it started, I believe that that there are some basics concepts to consider, to meditate. And they are like potential, expression, sensibility, etc. It's very important to develop things in the filosophic point of view.

And this is a individual search, I don't believe that any link will satisfy you.


04 April 2005, 07:08 PM
start with an idea. follow a need. and then follow another need. and then follow another need. and so on.

and meanwhile, brainstorm.

for me all it's logic, based on logic - except for the initial idea, which is illogical. and then you get some more illogical ideas. create a logical web in between illogical, inspirational ideas.

04 April 2005, 08:49 PM
start with an idea. follow a need. and then follow another need. and then follow another need. and so on.

and meanwhile, brainstorm.

for me all it's logic, based on logic - except for the initial idea, which is illogical. and then you get some more illogical ideas. create a logical web in between illogical, inspirational ideas.

Interesting metaphors you are using here, could you please elaborate?

04 April 2005, 06:14 PM
In a matter of fact, building a concept is not the thing i'm talking about (concept like "i'll do a project that sells cube tomatoes becuase they use space more efficiently, therefor i'll show funny ways to use the free space, by putting your annoying sister-in-law in it, dunno :p). But more like "OK, it's about ducks, lets draw and take photos of many ducks, their homes, environment, food... sketch, find the lines, shapes and colors that will be the best for them and use it for the abstract of the visual language".

Anyway, more then the ways of finding logicaly the language, i'm interested in what ppl actually did about it. I'm a way too much addicted to computers, and our teacher tells us to stop using it to the final step of technically do the job. All the composite, the searching after the language should be outside the computer - otherwise we all get a computerized objects in a computerized composition (like Neville Brody, and we can only wish to be genious like him). So, getting to the point, I just want to know how ppl dealed with things, the way they processed the ideas, sketchs they've done between them and themselves.

04 April 2005, 12:32 AM
Sign language mmister Artist 3D.

And the localised variants and dialects. After which can be analysed the several aspects of human perception and linking of visual to the real. If I sound like that movie with men as batteries it is so because I am wise.

If it's not what you want to hear, I suggest you look into biology and behavioral sciences. Commercials really are made to brainwash you, you notice it because if you didn't and someone else did it would mean lawyers. And everybody hates lawyers.

biology of us is dominant in how we link a meaning to an image. It has to be processed in a certain way by our brains and such.

behavioral sciences; to manipulate the audience is the eventual goal of every selfrespecting artist. Without it there would be no effect at all :shrug:.

04 April 2005, 01:21 AM
hmm, i guess you're talking about and artist's style? like how Gianlorenzo Bernini has a 'style' different than Francis Bacon... or that Warhol's images look different when put beside works done by Andrew Wyath..

from what i have gathered is that every artist tends to possess an individual graphical motif. basically an expressive creative language for conveying an idea. i'm not sure if there is much volition in how an artist aquires a specific style. no matter what anyone says, art creation is fundamentally an instinctual activity. a person either has it or they don't.

04 April 2005, 09:15 AM
oh god, i wounder if it's my poor use of english. maybe i should start talking hebrew :p kidding...

oh well... in one project u can deside to make the visual stuff using only specific colors, vector shapes that has specific style (ie. only straight lines with 45 angels!), in another project u say "i'll mess around with dirt, take some photos of it and make a composition from it to give the sense it gives and for not making it boring, i'll put a secondary layer of bauhaous typographic for the contra and interest. Now, if there's any question, it'll ask why did u choose to use those materials for that purpose and not others? how did u come to those materials and what did u do with them? how is it connected to the composite (centerized, 1/3, any other crazy kind of, dynamic, static, etc. etc.)

Anyway, the button line, is that more important then those questions above, is just to see sketches. I bet some of you do sketches on papers, use pargament papers and play with them, take references of textures, casual objects, other artists and build something from all those. All my couriosity is about seeing ppl's methodology, how they think, where do they search? what do they take from those references? and not general philosophical talking but actually see things. Of course philosophical ideas said around those pictures can add a lot! :)

And no, i'm not talking about artist's style, but a project's style (an artist can change his style from project to project if he's aware and ambitious enough). My idea is to hitch the style for the specific project and not for my own self-definning.

04 April 2005, 02:46 PM
I think I understand what you're asking. . . :curious:

First step in the process of creating a visual language is always finding out what you want to say. It's fine if you say "I think I'll speak in French today", but you really should have a message in mind. Otherwise you're just shouting words that have no relation to each other and you're not communicating anything. In the same way as saying "I'm going to create a visual language with dirt". If you have nothing to say, the dirt won't have anything to say either.

Once you've found a message, you can start designing a method of communicating it to your audience. You should be aware of how your audience perceives things -- do they read from left to right and then down or in some other way? If you use ducks or dirt as your means of communication, how are these things perceived? Are they food? Are they evil? Do they already have a symbolic meaning that you'll have to overcome in order to convey your meaning? Can you use existing perceptions to help you communicate?

In terms of using color and composition to emphasize elements of your message you can refer to Stahlberg's sticky ( art theory. The same concepts used in making a more coherent painting apply to graphic design.

Hope that helps.

[edit] I almost forgot:
The most basic way of communicating something in print is to show a picture of the thing you're talking about. That's a noun. Show the something in the process of doing something (boy throwing a ball, wrecking ball destroying a building) or show two different pictures (nouns) and imply a relationship between the two and now you've got a sentence!

The only reason that letters and words have any meaning is that letters started out as pictures of other things. The symbols evolved over thousands of years and their meanings were taught throughout villages and kingdoms. I doubt that you'll have thousands of years to do your project, so you'll have to do it the quick way with pictures. ;)

04 April 2005, 04:08 PM
Ilikesoup, you're totaly right, and totaly talking about my topic :)

So ducks are evil, ah? :D

Anyway, that thing you've just said is something we try to achieve in every project indeed, and I achieve many times a good language for my projects, still, there are sometimes i feel stack, and I search for inspiration, enlightment, other ways of technically building a language, not only the choosing of using this material or another one, but also building your own shapes, symbols etc. I think it'll be interesting to fill this thread with sketchs of people who tried to build such languages. When I have mine, I'll put some as well of course.

04 April 2005, 04:55 PM
I don't know why, but I really enjoy looking at pictograms -- they're as much puzzles as a language, and the fun is in "cracking the code". Anyway, my Great Space Opera entry (see the link below in my sig if you're interested) is more a big pictogram than an actual painting. I tried to paint a realistic sene to illustrate my story (the poor murder their king, then use human sacrifice as a means to get food, clothing and weapons for themselves), but was just trying to fit in too much information and it wasn't working for me. I reduced everything to symbols and it came together much more easily (though it was a very flat image for the purpose of the competition). I'd love to hear your opinion of it.

[edit:] BTW, I saw a story that Dave Sim did in his Cerebus comic book. The tale involved the title character, a Conan-like aardvark, who spent the night drinking and carrying on with a frozen corpse and fleeing from the police. The interesting point is that, while there were plenty of word balloons, there was no "spoken" dialogue. A policeman yelling "HALT!" was shown as a stop sign drawn inside a word balloon. "He's dead" was a grave stone inside a balloon, and "You're under arrest" showed Cerebus gripping the bars of a jail cell. It was brilliant and opened up a whole new world of possibilities in my work.

04 April 2005, 06:36 PM
If I understand what your topic is here, you seem interested in what choices we make or approach we take when creating a work of art.

My reply to that would be to express how I deal with the motivation. For example, if I see something that inspires me, then there are different preparations I make to translate that artistically. In some cases it's rather spontaneous. In others I might consider what medium is best suited, or experiment with different mediums to bend them to what I want to see as a result since a certain mediums have advantages over another.
I don't spend too much time on the decision process, to be honest, but perhaps I should. I might limit it to a medium that I'm currently exploring, and adapt it to different imagery, or save it as a sketch reference for later. For example, I'm currently playing around with casein paint, and the same image as an oil would look very different.

04 April 2005, 06:55 PM
casein?? That sounds interesting. Can you show how it looks like and how you work with it? That's exactly a good example of things i'm looking for, see what materials people use and how they use them. Making here a collection of different materials and methods of work can open people's eyes to new and interesting ways to make their art/design.

04 April 2005, 12:27 AM
I haven't painted with casein that much. It handles much like gouache, which I'm more familiar with. The main difference is that it dries permanent, so you can go back over it afterwards, and you can work in glazes. Because the colors change value when they dry, like gouache, a good tip I learned was to make a reference sheet with a strokes of paint on it that have dried. When you paint in thin glazes the color change is not so dramatic. I like the medium because since it dries very quickly the strokes are very obvious, so it's more like drawing.
John Berkey painted in casein often, and many illustrators have painted with it in the past. It photographs well because there's no gloss to it like most paint mediums. It's a very ancient medium, actually, but also rather hard to find for some reason. Here's a good informative link:

I'm looking forward to having fun with it this weekend.


04 April 2005, 01:37 AM
One interesting approach can be seen on the Incredibles DVD. One of the character designers did his designs in collage. Photos of materials cut into simple shapes. I thought it was brilliant.

I'd also like to share an analogy I read one time. Making art is like making a road. When you lay out a road you hammer a stake in the ground, walk a few paces and hammer another stake in the ground, and so on...until you eventually look back, and see the shape your road has taken and hence the direction its going. Each sketch, painting, collage, etc, that you do is another stake in the ground, leading you towards your goal.

I personally like to print out photos and draw on top of them. You can also do that with old drawings that didn't quite work. The act of drawing is so quick, cheap, and efficient, that it is the main way I generate Ideas.

I draw a lot of inspiration from sources which may have little relevance to the design. When I'm stuck, it helps to go do something so different that it stretches my mind in the opposite direction. It can open up some doors to creative solutions.

04 April 2005, 03:35 AM
Art does speak.

I find myself thinking of many abstract angles in which to twist a vision of reality only using one scene asset that I already have at my disposal. I mean how many points of views can we show our visions from? I really think that within the seemingly simple confines of a scene room with a few other common everyday objects we can explore as many visions as we can taking a hike in the outdoors. We can change moods by positioning objects and editing details. Or we can play with lighting values, etc to create joy or despair. Just using these latter mentioned attributes as a reference point of scenes overall adjustments, we could generate thousands of interesting pictures and stories from this now very complex scene.

I think that we speak when other people understand what we are trying to say. If an image draws others attention to it speaks.

Who of us has been are walking down a street and has seen a hole or a crack in the road that was formed caused by something unknown? If it is big enough we might even theorize as to the cause of the hole. In a sense that hole that was formed by erosion or some other occurrence tells it's story. Of course it's leaves us to interpret the story but it is a story none the less.

Who here is not perplexed when they hear of news about some lost civilization or some ancient find that lacks a definitive modern day interpretation? Is it our unknown past that interest us? Or is it about learning about our present reality through something old that although is long dead, still speaks to us?

As artist we have to create places that are like lost or alien worlds. These places may seem strange to our audiences but in reality are very familiar. We have to give them something to explore that speaks to them and tells them about themselves. I think that if someone asks me what art is good for or what it does, I will add another explanation to my response. I'll say that art is like taking a journey to a distant land to search for something that you already own but until you visit that place you won't know what that possession is. Maybe this is one way in which art speaks.

I'm out. I just wanted to add my little point of view to this amazing thread.

This a great forum, wow. I have to come here more often folks. This place is good for the artist mind.

Have fun!

04 April 2005, 03:55 AM
start with an idea. follow a need. and then follow another need. and then follow another need. and so on.

and meanwhile, brainstorm.

for me all it's logic, based on logic - except for the initial idea, which is illogical. and then you get some more illogical ideas. create a logical web in between illogical, inspirational ideas.

Sweet concept! I feel the same way. I like to work with our everyday reality which is logical when it serves us, provides shelter for us, work, food, clothing, entertainment, love, friends, community, etc. It's the exploration of different events logical or illogical that need explanation that I can create from within the visions of this reality that are the basis for my work.

Sometimes I think about a topic real hard then get to work at other times it's completely spontaneous. The fact can come from so many everyday places.

The point of tying things together can be hard. But thats why I connect my new information to the old info and just change the topic to make room for it. You can find some way to connect new thoughts to old thought environments by connecting them with logical points.

It's better to add to something than try to start from scratch every time you get a new task.

Now do you think that "needs" have to be relevant to the topic or can they be relative to the situation?

04 April 2005, 10:07 AM
...The point of tying things together can be hard. But thats why I connect my new information to the old info and just change the topic to make room for it. You can find some way to connect new thoughts to old thought environments by connecting them with logical points...

If I understood you well, you mean that you start making some art, may have your initial concept, but then you find that the piece says something else, so you change your concept. Right?

Well, it can be done for art, it can be done in college when you learn visual communication (for design) - but when you try to build a visual language that has some specific attributes, most of the times, you can't change the concept. Lets say you're doing this "Incredibles" movie, and you play with materials trying to achieve an interesting visual language, you get to something really freaky that looks like taken from an horror movie. Yeh, it's cool! lets say we're doing an horror movie about heroes! well, no. You must keep searching till you get the right feeling. And one of my aims is to repredict the feeling a language will give me as soon as possible to save time, and more then that, to be in this position that when I have a need to build a specific feeling, I as fast as I can know which tools to use, and yet, not using obvious tools and technics all the times.

Maybe there's no such ability, maybe it's always about seeking your materials and no can predict it so soon. (but, i'm a believer! ;))

Following example for a good comunicator (if i can call it that way) is Hanoh Piven's works:

The interesting thing in his works that sometimes he's so sharp in choosing the right objects to define the character he wants to define. Not only conceptualy, but also in shape and touch.

04 April 2005, 09:08 PM
If I understood you well, you mean that you start making some art, may have your initial concept, but then you find that the piece says something else, so you change your concept. Right?


As far as changing a concept I was also thinking in lines of changing character, fashion or mood. In real life we can change our clothing and hair and become something new. We can go in a restroom room and come out as a different looking person each time by adjusting our clothes such as flipping our coat, rolling up pants legs, adjusting our hair, makeup, etc. We could even change clothes with whoever enters the restroom for more changes. We are the same person but with each change of clothing we take on different roles. Art gives us this kind of capacity for flexibility without limitation.

We can look at a stand up comedian doing improv and see them become many different characters right before our eyes. Actors take on roles in the same way. Artist can do the same even with a limited amount of material to work with.

04 April 2005, 05:25 PM
I define a character's as a behaviour concept. I don't care what's the concept about, it doesn't have to be some kind of a narrative. Anyway, it's true that you can change it, but you should have some control of what is the change. You don't want to take a character that your purpose is to make it younger, cool, sexy, dynamic, and somehow you find you've done you made it younger but super geek... :)
In character is easier, because we're so good at recognizing people's characters by a fast glance - actually we do it immidately with every person we see - she's a snob, she's a nerd, she's beautiful but... she looks so cute and charming! she's smart, she's a he :p etc. etc... (girls, we look at everyone, not only at girls: he's annoying, he's stupid, he's cool, man!, he's a nerd, lets kick his a$$ etc. etc. :)). But what is the feeling of red abstract polygons in a specific composition on a bright blue gradient with some very transperent layer of dust on it, specially in the corners of the shapes? It's hard to say till you see the composition with all its components.
Yet, different abstracts give you different feelings. There's an animation called _grau (, absolute abstract, and amazing by the way according to my opinion. Though it's abstract, it gives you an exact feeling. What is it? How does it do it? I bet it's author knew what he was doing and didn't just try some "cool effects" to see what he got from it.

CGTalk Moderation
04 April 2005, 05:25 PM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.