Sunday, 4 March 2012

Words in the design of images

I love this simple and expressive image, from one of David Pearson's designs for Penguin.  I have always liked graphic images which incorporate words, but many people feel precisely the opposite, as if the domain of images, posters and pictures should be kept separate and unpolluted by words.  But words have image content too: in fact visual memory is an indispensable element of reading: it is the shape and visual appearance of the word (provided this is familiar) which summons up meaning for the reader.  If this was not so, reading would be a much slower process than it mostly is, at least for efficient readers, and when the overall context and the words themselves, are reasonably familiar.

The images of this sort I like best are those in which the type is not used entirely for their visual content: the various possible meanings of the words involved are also part of the point.  That is perhaps why David Pearson's image works so well for me: there is a point, similar to the point of a joke, to get.  The process involved is also analogous to the point of puns, which of course can be visual as well as verbal.  Puns and punning, too, tend to divide people: you either like or hate them.

This last example is great but doesn't work unless you really look at it very carefully - which is to miss the point!  Well, perhaps not.