November 14, 2014 - Comments Off on Research Abstract

Research Abstract

Graphic Design as a means of extending the human capacity to communicate | Humanity's entanglement with technology and how this in turn alters Graphic Design

Some time , around 70,000 years ago, an evolutionary change occurred in the dimensions of the skull of the homo-sapiens species. Cieri, (see McName, 2014) suggests that this change facilitated a development in brain capacity that enabled the homo-sapiens species to join other hominid species in the development of tools. It is commonplace to describe the development of tools as a deliberate attempt to extend the range and capability of the body; this is born out by evidence of how Palaeolithic tools were initially fashioned to extend the capability of the human hand. The evidence we have suggests that unlike other hominid species, homo-sapien development of tool use coincided with the development of image making and in particular the deployment of graphical forms of symbolic meaning, (Drinnon, 2014). Can we usefully discuss the use of image making to deploy symbolic meaning as a means to extend the body. What does this imply for contemporary practices such as graphic Design; for our histories of communication and furthermore what insight can contemporary design bring to our understandings of Palaeolithic image making.


DRINNON, D. (2014) ‘Geometric Signs from Genevieve Von Petzinger’ [Online] Available at: (Accessed 16 November)


MCNAMEE, D. (2014) ‘Softening of human features 'coincided with technological breakthrough' [Online] Available at: (Accessed 16 November 2014)

November 4, 2014 - Comments Off on Higher Consciousness and the Autobiographical Self

Higher Consciousness and the Autobiographical Self

Humanity appears to inhibit two realities (although dualism is disputed) and our consciousness is certainly the logical explanation, it is this ‘inner’ reality or the ‘self’ that holds our distinctive understanding of our daily lives. The modern age that we know today is a result of our mind's profound cognitive ability to interpret our surroundings, and most significantly be able to further convert our knowledge and experiences into something new entirely. We as humans share a unique ability above all other animals, we are able to construct and shape our entire world around us like never before, thriving on creativity and invention. In order to begin piecing together how creativity may have become possible, I think it’s important to briefly highlight the brain's ability to render and conjure images, illustrated in the images below. In the first image we have the visual cortex shown in yellow, green refers to tactile and blue auditory. The image-making regions then send signals to the memory-holding regions shown in purple.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 18.12.42

The significant attribute of higher-consciousness is the ability to transmit information from our memory back to our visual cortex and also be able to fabricate our sense of self from these memories. ‘Simply put, the development of enormously complex re-entry neural circuits in the brain’ (See Lewis-Williams, 2002). A study on visual mental imagery and visual perception conducted by Giorgio Ganis, shows the brain's ability to transfer signals from memory to our visual cortex and established that visual imagery and visual perception draw on most of the same neural machinery. It is this trait in the brain's ability to later recall visual data and send it to the visual cortex that has initiated a number of theories with regard to prehistoric creativity. One particular theory supposes the brain's ability to recall visual images allowed for visions, such as dreams and altered states and suspected spiritual experiences which humans sought to transfer their visions to the ‘physical’.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in a TED talk on ‘the quest to understand consciousness’ assumed that the motivation to communicate visually was induced by an understanding of time, the memory of before and the knowledge that they could transmit meaning beyond the confines of the self in the future. The observation of time is a plausible incentive for Paleolithic hominids to fabricate art that would supersede their own existence and various contemporary artists have expressed a similar motivation. In an earlier post I discussed the presentation conducted by Dr Jonathon Clark in which he spoke of the ‘longevity of art and the shortness of life’ and a comparable citation can be found in the Channel 4 ‘Who are you?’ with Grayson Perry; one of the subjects states ‘I’m fragile with the possibility of immortality, identity is fragile, and then what you leave from your identity is a possible legacy of some kind of immortality’. Visual communication has the capacity to convey one's self beyond the confines of mortality and without an appreciation for time, I highly doubt early hominids would have begun to devise what we know as the creative act.

Grayson Perry: Who are you? (2014). [TV programme] Channel 4, 22 October 2014

LEWIS-WILLIAMS, D. (2002) The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art. London: Thames & Hudson.

November 1, 2014 - Comments Off on Visual expression as a form of technology and technology as an extension of nature

Visual expression as a form of technology and technology as an extension of nature

More than conversation at the user interface, we need the creative elaboration of the particular dynamic capacities that these new media afford and of the ways that through them humans and machines together can perform interesting new effects. These are avenues that have just begun to be explored, primarily in the fields of new media, graphics and animation, art and design. Not only do these experiments promise innovations in our thinking about machines, but they also open up the equally exciting prospect of new conceptualizations of what it means to be human, understood not as a bounded, rational entity but as an unfolding, shifting biography of culturally specific experience and relations, inflected for each of us in uniquely particular ways.

SUCHMAN, L. (2009) Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

As of late I have been contemplating the relation between art and graphic design, and come to a postulation that perhaps they are more closely entwined than I had previously recognised. Having cogitated a variety of text that equates art and graphic design as merely an extension of our natural ability to communicate to one another has alleviated my recent quandary. If I were to isolate art and design to their respected attributes then delineations can be deduced, Thomas Widdershoven (creative director of Design Academy Eindhoven) stipulates that “Art is much more self-conscious, self-initiated, but also solipsistic. Design is much more open to the world”, a notion shared with John Maeda (former president of the Rhode Island School of Design) illustrated in a number of his TED lectures (fig.1).

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 13.45.51 copy
Fig 1: John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders

Nevertheless, by reducing art and graphic design to a constituent element of visual expression has evoked a thought provoking conception of ideas from which I plan on developing further. My resolve has no doubt been stimulated by recent perturbations, particularly the emphasis on technology as an extension of nature that has now resonated with my understanding of visual expression existing as an extension of our innate capacity to communicate orally and also physically with regard to body language. Having stipulated that I perceive visual expression to be an extension of our biological means of communication I see no reason why the creative act cannot be ascertained as a form of technology. Humanity remains bound and determined for a metamorphosis of crucial significance, an entanglement with technology that encompasses every aspect of our lives.

Visual Communication, or perhaps sensory communication would be more apt considering the breadth of expression now attainable following the influx of technological means of transmission whereby the multisensory ensue. Our entanglement with technology in correlation with expression has provided an ever-evolving catalyst of emancipation from our consciousness, highlighted by Marshall Mcluhan in Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man:

In this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving toward the technological extension of consciousness. That is what is meant when we say that we daily know more and more about man. We mean that we can translate more and more of ourselves into other forms of expression that exceed ourselves.

MCLUHAN, M. (1994) Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

October 29, 2014 - Comments Off on Entanglement | Technology Philosophy

Entanglement | Technology Philosophy

Attempting to ascertain a different path for my research I have begun to remove myself from my previous venture in exploring the difference between traditional mediums of art and design and emerging digital manifestations. Having recently chosen to direct my enquiry into the rudimentary elements of graphic design I had developed a vague hypothesis with the aim of considering the creative act as an extension of communication (as discussed in my previous post). Last week I was mindful of an upcoming task that involved sharing my envisioned project and research to fellow students in the form of a poster and for that reason I made an effort to present my research as clearly as possible. In retrospect I recognise that I was trying to connect an array of theoretical disciplines without an established preceding question and therefore I struggled to generate a cohesive description of my work which was inexorably reflected by the feedback I received.

Subsequently I was contending with the poster dilemma and cogitating a resolve for my approaching mid-term viva in the time that I had before this week’s research seminar with Dr Stephen Thompson. In preparation for my own presentation next month I was eager to witness how Thompson would conduct his seminar and more importantly how accessible the content would be for the unknowing spectator. I admittedly spoke to Thompson on regular occasions at this point and begun to delve into similar research topics that had been recommended, nevertheless it was apparent that the presentation was stripped down of complexity and articulated in a graspable manner. Not only did I gain an insight into Thompson’s presentation methods that I intend on executing in my own delivery of research next month but also found a number of notable statements that I aim to explore further.

The overarching subject of technology philosophy integral to Thompson’s presentation was insightful and underlined an array of elements that have progressively come to be relevant in my own practice. I admit that the research field of technology philosophy is expansive and have only begun to delve into specific areas of interest that I feel necessary in order to shape my position on the matter. A statement found in 'The Systems View of Life' chimes with my current research and corresponds with the actor-network theory:

Twentieth-century science has shown repeatedly that all natural phenomena are ultimately interconnected, and that their essential properties, in fact, derive from their relationships to other things. Hence, in order to explain any of them completely, we would have to understand all the others, and that is obviously impossible.

The Systems View of Life | Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

Particular components that can perhaps be applied to my current endeavours are the actor-network theory and recognising technology as an extension of ourselves. I have become vaguely familiar with the debates associated in technology philosophy stemming from Thompson’s seminar and recent engagement with Merritt Roe Smith’s ‘does technology drive history: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism’. The term Technological determinism supposes that society and cultural values are inherently and predictably driven by technological innovation. But I myself believe that this relationship cannot be reduced to such a cause and effect formula and remains far more complex. Ian Hodder who looks at humanity’s relationship with things in his book ‘Entangled: An Archaaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things’ identifies that things are not isolated. That they are connected and remain intertwined in a framework of relationships, a principle of the actor-network.

In light of recent discussions on the ontological presence of technology as a facilitator to emancipate from our biological limitations, I determine that Graphic design is an extension of our ability to communicate and has been from its first inception.

SMITH, M. (1994) Does Technology Drive History. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

October 25, 2014 - Comments Off on What Now?

What Now?

State of Entropy

In an earlier post I highlighted why analyses became the solution to my disarray and uncertainty, allowing me to overcome the expanse of knowledge I was investigating. However, recently I have become overwhelmed with a discord of ideas and attempting to search for lucidity out of my current perplexed state. Having spoken to Dr Stephen Thompson I began to consider that I may have been trying to implement methodologies to design that perhaps remain solely associated with photography, in particular the mimetic artifice inherently ingrained within the photographic image.


By acknowledging that my former approach was convoluted with predisposed ideologies that did not really attain relevance to my latest endeavours I feel that I am now able to reveal my true intentions. Perhaps I was lazy and relying on my prior research and by taking a step back I have begun to explore and assimilate a more suitable focus.


An artist is a man who digests his own subjective impressions and knows how to find a general objective meaning in them, and how to express them in a convincing form.

Maxim Gorkey

Contemplating my former attempts to conjure a theoretical grounding from which to base my forthcoming project allowed me to uncover the rudimentary elements that were prevalent throughout, predominately visual communication, although it is important to note that I plan on expanding my future research to cover multiple instances of sensory stimuli. Rather than focus on the creative act, a foundation which I previously relied upon as an artist whereby I became preoccupied in the act of self-expression, I now need to consider others. Striving to transform my methodologies towards the field of design in which others (clients) and their messages are to be cogitated and conveyed, the successful transmission of ideas becomes imperative. This is not to say that I plan on relinquishing my own sense of diegesis throughout this project, I solely want to foster a greater propensity to articulate meaning via design.

Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on the one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity.

The Creative Act, Marcel Duchamp


At this moment in time I am constructing my amended theoretical framework that I anticipate will assist in invoking a thought-provoking venture into not only graphic communication but also the transmission of ideas within the study of aesthetics i.e. empirical aesthetics and incorporating components from psychoanalyses.

Perhaps investigating the inception of ideas in my study is too expansive in the time that I have, therefore an emphasis on the transmission and inferred connotative/denotative meaning within graphic communication would be more fruitful.

Future Reading:  

The books I intend on reading over the coming weeks encompass semiotics (Mythologies | Roland Barthes), the capabilities of the human mind, along with its flaws and limitations (Brain Bugs | Dean Buonomano and How To Create A Human Mind | Ray Kurzweil), the instigation and foundation of human creativity (Last Ape Standing | Chip Walkter) and why the traditional artist is being transformed into the designer (Design as Art | Bruno Munari).

designasart_large Unknown-2 brainbugs Unknown Unknown-1

October 22, 2014 - Comments Off on Anamorphic Images

Anamorphic Images

James Green conducted this weeks seminar on the subject of ‘making things appear closer: using specially shaped supports to paint on”. I found a number of components that stimulated further thought on the nature of visual awareness in art. Green’s discussion on humanity’s proclivity to frame the world in the confines of the rectangle was interesting in view of my background in photography in which the frame becomes intrinsic in the act of using a camera. In light of my former negotiation with the photographic image’s confinement within the rectangle (or square concerning certain medium formats) I understood the challenges Green was facing in his own practice. I often felt restrained by the camera’s cropping and negation of a world in flux that I believed often became absent of intimacy, therefore I could appreciate Green’s determination to escape the boundaries of the rectangle. Likewise photographers happen to be exploring the same avenues as Green by adopting new technologies that allow for a more expansive photographic image such as panoramic and spherical constructs.

Its incredible how deeply imprinted we are with these … rectangles … everything in our culture seems to reinforce the instinct to see rectangularly – books, streets, buildings, rooms, windows.

Hockney, in Weschler 2008:30

A quote by David Hockney was incorporated into Green’s presentation that highlighted the cultural reinforcement of the rectangle in not only the production of art emphasised by Green but in a number of objects too. There have no doubt been certain exceptions in this case whereby creators diverge from the orthodox form and I have previously been curious with applying Green’s methods to publication design. The creative act is continuously evolving and discovering innovative modes of expression in order to conceivably expand the capacity to externalise the conscious state. At one point during the seminar Green addressed a remark made by French Painter Georges Braque that disputed the Renaissance rules of perspective since it intrinsically distanced the subject from the spectator, instead proposing that artists aught to bring the subject within reach of the beholder. Green develops this ideology further by eliminating the conventional frame entirely in the interest of ‘making things appear closer’ to the viewer.

Shaped supports becomes the technique Green implements in order to bridge the distance between work and viewer that Braque suggested linear perspective triggered. This method noticeably arose from Green’s examination of anamorphic images. Anamorphosis is essentially a perspective illusion that necessitates decrypting a distorted object into something familiar, this can be achieved by using mirrors or another example would be the logos stretched across a rugby pitch, appearing as anticipated from another vantage point. I find something contextually arresting concerning the perception of anamorphic images, notably the element of ambiguity when observed from a certain point of view. An anamorphic image often requires an approach of reconstituting the distorted image in favour of observing a recognisable form, which I feel in some ways can be applied to the nature of art. Let me put it this way, all creative endeavours are effectively ambiguous until viewed from a particular vantage point, therefore the anamorphic image can perhaps be used as a metaphor for the subjective ontology of art. Substituting the literal sense of occupying a vantage point and in its place introducing the theory of cognitive archaeology with reference to the autobiographical self.

The point is that any picture is usually tested against preexisting suppositions and knowledge about the world.

David Bate, On Photography

October 20, 2014 - Comments Off on “A painting is not about experience. It is an experience”

“A painting is not about experience. It is an experience”

What is the Aura?

Although the presence of the aura (distinctive feeling that seems to surround an original artwork, for instance a painting) remains debatable, I personally deem the notion plausible and plan on emphasising why. The aura is essentially a transcendent sentimentality induced by the physical presence of a painting and often amplified by the knowledge of its unique creation. In comparison to painting being intrinsically unique in its fabrication, the instigation of the modern age and influx of reproducibility has provoked a new dispute on our relationship with art and authenticity. Theorists Walter Benjamin and John Berger have both contemplated the aura's illusive impression on the spectator, whilst Benjamin stipulates that the aura has been negated, the influence of the 'original' becoming diluted by infinite duplicates, Berger goes on to maintain that the original's status has merely changed, now exaggerated by being the first materialisation of a work of art, 'the original'.

The aura is an effect of a work of art being uniquely present in time and space. It is connected to the idea of authenticity. A reproduced artwork is never fully present. If there is no original, it is never fully present anywhere. Authenticity cannot be reproduced, and disappears when everything is reproduced.

Links: Ceasrfire Magazine on Walter Benjamin: Art, Aura and Authenticity

Key Text: Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction / John Berger: Ways of Seeing

{0D4A89C6-3D4E-4ED0-A9A7-7C3A28637B78}Img100          Waysofseeingcvr

October 18, 2014 - Comments Off on Abstract Concept

Abstract Concept

At this early stage in my project I have been deliberating over the exact research area that I want to explore further. Originally I had thought to transfer ideas across from my photographic art with particular emphasis on the aura (which I will elaborate on in my next post) and theory’s I had acquired from my dissertation in order to apply these to the digitalisation of print media. I swiftly began to accumulate a range of books that I felt would provide a direction in which to take my research further and became interested in ‘The Medium is the Message’ by Marshall McLuhan. The notion that the medium had the ability to alter the transmission of the message immediately related to my own ideas with regard to the intangible digital and what had been lost by surpassing the physical. Progressively I expanded my research into technology theory having spoken to Dr Stephen Thompson on disregarding the ‘how’ and focusing on ‘why’ were these digital or non-digital mediums fashioned; clearly the answer was communication.

Devising a new appreciation for the overarching premise that technology remained a facilitator for humanity prompted an interest in how technology in turn modifies our history, hence I was driven to read ‘Does Technology Drive History?’ by Merritt Roe Smith. During the same discussion I had with Stephen last week I put forward another idea that referred to what my project could perhaps end up being. I had an interest in documenting ‘the history of design’ by engaging with traditional and contemporary forms of visual communication and in what manner did they alter the messages intended interpretation. From this discussion arose a thought-provoking ideology triggered by my use of the term ‘the history’ that challenged my preconceptions concerning the formation of history altogether. Although I was aware of history’s biased appraisal I had not entirely considered this proposition in relation to my current frame of mind and in a recent seminar by Dr Jonathon Clark I began to place an emphasis on history as a partial assemblage of events.

I approached Clark’s seminar on ‘The Visualisations of History in Constable’s Paintings’ with a curiosity to John Constable as a celebrated landscape painter and did not expect to find it as enlightening as I did. Granted the seminar would no doubt revolve around an element of history bearing in mind the title, Clark elaborated on certain contextual components found in Constable’s own circumstances and reflexions on the model of history society upholds. Taking into consideration the aforementioned thoughts I had been pondering before observing Clark’s presentation, a particular statement caught my attention in which Clark defined ‘history as an abstract concept’. This notion of history existing as a kind of intangible entity poses many questions on the often excepted truthful clarification of the past. Clark goes on to contemplate the ‘Mysterious Monuments’ found in Constables paintings and in what way they become valuable to society having lost their function. I recognise this as a profound comment that can be applied to all objects in society as soon as its function has become null and void and in what sense do observers imprint significance on such artefacts.

October 15, 2014 - Comments Off on Entropy


Instinct to analyse

In a seminar last week we were asked to come prepared with an image or story that we felt represented ourselves in 30 years and I instinctively chose to analyse the transition of Van Gogh's oeuvre as an analogy to my predicted future. During the seminar's discussion other members of the group had chosen various other forms of representing the particular brief in question, these ranged from an "Instinct to explore but stay located" to an "Instinct to practicality". Within this post I plan on instinctively analysing my desire to analyse.

Self-reflexively engaging with my predisposed research methods I have come to understand why I automatically analyse and I know that this is not a new occurrence but something I have always employed when given a particular assignment to undertake. I chose to title this post 'entropy' due to the term typically meaning "disorder" or "uncertainty", two words that absolutely embody the outlook that I tend to have when beginning a new task. Analyses therefore becomes the logical solution to my disarray, derived from the Greek 'a breaking up' and 'a loosening', analyses primarily allows me to capably absorb the fragments of information most noteworthy to me.

Fluid Logic

This weeks seminar's key focus was fluid logic, I especially found this subject to be directly linked to the considerations I have been having with regard to my instinctual analyses when conducting research and immediately found parallels between interactional (contingent) research methods and my own. As the name suggests, the premise of interactional (contingent) study revolves around a network of information built upon a framework of interconnecting relationships, very much like Kenneth Snelson's sculpture Double Star which I have included as an illustration. When i speak of incorporating analyses in my research to resolve a state of entropy, I do not imply that I construct order out of chaos but simply to decipher the expanse of knowledge obtained into relevant fragments. These fragments can then be utilised and implemented into a framework of understanding that remain comprehensible to me.


Double Star By Kenneth Snelson

The analyses of Van Gogh's transition that I wrote can be found here