Reading Images

VCU professor Ben Day is here for the week with us as we work on our Unfamiliar Place poster. We're picking images to go with other text for our poster, so he gave a talk on how to read images today.

There are multiple readings of any image; its content is slippery and malleable. A rope can signify a rodeo, nautical references, a hangman, etc. You should look for what Ben calls sign indexes: what the images are pointing to. A windsock is a way of capturing the wind. A cake at a wedding isn't food, it's content signaling celebration.

Gather your images, then start labeling them. Put down the pointers: where it comes from, what could it signify, what were your assumptions when you collected it, what could it mean metaphorically. Are there any contradictions or oppositions of content? So much of good design has to do with juxtaposition, Ben told us. Find interesting juxtapositions of images: explicit vs. implicit, before and after, time and movement, linear and non-linear.

Originally posted on Tuesday, October 5, 2004

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