Computer-Based Design Less of A Feud Between Word And Image New Music Festival A Multicultural Air

Release Date: December 7, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new generation of designers is redefining graphic literacy, giving more reverence to the written word and placing less emphasis on the image itself, the head of the Graphic Design Program at the University at Buffalo says.

This evolution may delight writers and editors who often complain of the ascendancy of "design" over "ideas" in many media over the past decade.

The computer redefines everything, says Bill Kinser, UB associate professor of art. This new kind of literacy begins with a new kind of thinking that demands precision and the linear step-by-step logic of words, not the sensuous, spatial logic of the artist.

Designers are not the only ones affected by this new type of literacy, Kinser notes. With the growing availability of graphic software, writers and businessmen, among others, must learn to be more visually astute. Writers are now more aware of visual impact, since such a simple choice as a font type can change the effect of their text.

This new approach to design is not a revolution, but a subtler shift, more aptly described as an "evolution," Kinser writes in a recent issue of Step by Step Graphics. Young designers are more comfortable working with words than they used to be and, consequently, are giving them more weight and respect.

The design method, as described by Kinser, involves starting with words and looking at images to support the text. It is a process that may be defined as electronic "illumination."

Historically, design was taught as a visual art -- as a craft that employed manual skills. Graphic design emerged after World War II when designers worked primarily for advertisers. "They became the visual voice of corporations," Kinser says.

"Computer-based design begins with content and meaning, as defined by words, rather than with a visual idea, to be embellished with words," he says. Much of his students' work -- computers have been part of the graphic-design curriculum at UB since 1978 -- gives words the dominant, and images the subordinate, role, contradicting standardization and mass production.

Kinser predicts that for the most part, art-centered design methods will disappear. Yet, one medium will never replace another, just as television could not take the place of radio, he says.

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