Week Five: Written Communication

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

In this weeks lecture, we looked at visual writing and questioned what drives an artist or graphic designer to write about visual culture. The lecture began with a short history behind visual writing which started before the first world war. This time curated the perfect environment for visual culture to thrive due to civil unrest, rebellion, political instability, and revolution. The period pathed the way for the likes of Dadaism and Cubism. Modern art was rebellious against social and political hierarchy and especially disliked the old order of traditional fine art. During the 19th century, many artists were commissioned to create artworks for churches which created imagery to instruct the viewer, however, modern art allowed them to create their ideas and explore the subconscious, symbolism, topics of interest. The art movements, such as the ones mentioned above, adopted a revolutionary stance and opinionated writing which led to Futurism, created by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. On February 20th he published his Manifesto of Futurism on the front page of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro.


Futurism was a particularly strong movement as Italy had a heavyweight of oppression from past cultures that needed to be lifted. The futurists proposed that celebrated the modern world of industry and technology.

Futurist painting used elements of neo-impressionism and cubism to create a composition that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy and movement, of modern life. It rejected ideas and notions of the past, ditching them for fresh and untried new possibilities which emphasised the speed, technology, youth, violence and objects of the modern world. It celebrated man's ability to overcome nature and natural order.

Image: Futurism - Monoskop

Image: Futurism, Dynamism and Colour | Art in Croatia (timeout.com)


Vorticism was an iconoclastic British art movement that attacked traditional British culture. It was formed and shaped, at least in part, in response to other art movements including Futurism.

The Vorticist journal BLAST was published only twice. BLAST: The Review of the Great English Vortex appeared in July 1914 and BLAST: War Number in July 1915. The first issue, shown here, was a vehicle for the Vorticist manifesto and a long list of things to BLAST (the mild, domesticated and provincial) or BLESS (distinctly unromantic ships, English ports, bridges and hairdressers).

BLAST was edited by Wyndham Lewis, a founder member of the Vorticist movement, who also wrote portions of the text.

Image: blast magazine - Bing images

De Stijl

De Stijl was a circle of Dutch abstract artists who promoted a style of art based on a strict geometry of horizontals and verticals.

Originally a publication, De Stijl was founded in 1917 by two pioneers of abstract art, Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. De Stijl means style in Dutch. The magazine De Stijl became a vehicle for Mondrian’s ideas on art, and in a series of articles in the first year’s issues, he defined his aims and used, perhaps for the first time, the term neo-plasticism. This became the name for the type of abstract art he and the De Stijl circle practised.

Other members of the group included Bart van der Leck, Vantongerloo and Vordemberge-Gildewart, as well as the architects Gerrit Rietveld and JJP Oud. Mondrian withdrew from De Stijl in 1923 following Van Doesburg’s adoption of diagonal elements in his work. Van Doesburg continued the publication until 1931.

De Stijl had a profound influence on the development both of abstract art and modern architecture and design.

Image: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/de-stijl

Neue Grafik

Neue Grafik magazine, in its short publishing history (1958-1965) helped to establish Swiss Style outside the country. The editors: Richard Lohse; Joseph Muller-Brockmann; Hans Neuberg; Carlo Vivarelli were all successful Zurich designers and it was their idea for the publication to promote the Swiss Constructive design concepts to a wider audience, as well as selling their own creative services. Carlo Vivarelli designed the grid for the eleven by ten-inch page and it was followed rigorously with articles and captions in three languages.

Image: http://westread.blogspot.com/2013/05/new-graphic-design-issue-1-september.html

Objective Graphic Design

design that used typography and photography to communicate facts to people.

  • Sober

  • Simple

  • Driven by use of (simple) typography

  • Photography over illustrations as photos are a record of the actual thing rather than a potential manipulation

Image: http://www.eyemagazine.com/review/article/we-made-this-authentic-trilingual-landmark

Paul Rand

A role of a designer is to:

  • Make things memorable

  • Easy to recall (very important!!)

  • Improve general quality of life

Image: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/525724956508698252/

Workshop Challenge

Children's Book Research

Image: https://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/

This simple yet humorous children's book briefly follows a pigeon's determination to drive a bus. There are probably under 50 words (in total) throughout the whole story and only a couple of characters, which with exaggerated voices brings the story to life.

In regards to illustration and overall design, there's a childlike naivety to the illustrations and typography, which mixed with a small colour palette, makes this book aesthetically enjoyable and fun to read, for both children and adults.

Image: https://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/

This book is a fun way of learning about the alphabet with rhyming language that builds as the narrative flows. It follows all the letters of the alphabet as they race to get to the top of a coconut tree. As the narrative builds, so does the tempo. It's a fun read that draws attention from the offset, along with quirky illustrations and bright colours it makes for a very unique way of learning the alphabet which can be a laborious task.

Image: https://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/

This book combines poetry, wit, and weirdness to make for an extremely entertaining story that both children and adults can appreciate that makes for a fun read over and over again. Like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom the language and rhythm build the tempo as the narrative progresses. Again, it's simple with only a few words on each page which are accompanied by beautiful illustrations that have a hand-drawn quality and innocence.

400 Words

There are a whole array of children's storybooks available for a whole array of ages, from five months (and under) up to around twelve and thirteen. Of course, childhood development is quick and continuous, growth is constant and learning ability will range quite significantly between these age ranges. I started my research for this challenge by simply searching What makes a good children's book? Many results appeared on the subject, however, the key points that kept appearing were:

  • Story and language-is it simple enough?

  • Structure, is the story written in prose or rhythmic?

  • Illustrations to help bring the story to life.

  • Interesting language.

  • Engaging.

  • Multicultural.

It was also advised that if the story has a message or a particular subject matter, that it shouldn't be too preachy or judgmental. With this in mind, another huge part to consider is the theme, whether the book is intended to educate, inform or entertain. Of course, some books incorporate more than one theme. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault (with illustration by Lois Ehlert) successfully educates and entertains its readers with engaging, unique language and its quick tempo and rhythmic pace as it follows the alphabet as they race to get to the top of a coconut tree. As well as this, quirky, bright illustrations accompany the text which could potentially add another aspect of educating with the option to identify colours and shapes.

Illustrations play a huge part in setting the tone of the story. We're always told to never judge a book by its cover, but I think children's books can be an exception to the rule. For the majority, you can tell whether a children's book is set out to either educate or entertain from the cover. For example, Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus by Mo Willems is purely set out to entertain and amuse and this can be identified from the illustration on the front cover (also by Mo Willems) which is of a pigeon but is drawn with childlike innocence and naivety. However, children's books that have an almost surreal element to them can be educational too. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss does this through wordplay by creating surreal imagery that not only entertains and amuses but shows how language can be fun and invites the reader to release their imagination. Children's books should appeal to adults too, as in a majority of circumstances they're going to be reading them. There isn't room for character development in children's books, however, it only takes a couple of strong adjectives to describe a character for the reader to get into character and adapt the voice suitably.

Visual Response

I took advantage of my role as a teacher for this challenge and got some students (between 4-5 years old) to draw some pictures. I just asked them to draw what they liked as I wanted to almost use this opportunity as a focus group to come up with ideas. In an interview for BBC Maestro, David Walliams mentions how the role of a children's author is to get inside the mind of a child. To think back to being 5/6 years old and question what made you scared or happy at that age.

"The role of a children's author is to get inside the mind of a child."

David Williams

With this drawing, I chose to make a children's book on twins, how they're the same and how they're different. This would be a subtle look on race, however, no ethnicity is distinguished between the characters.

I liked how the shapes of the bodies were triangles and made me think about incorporating more shapes within the illustrations to add to that educational element.

I scanned the drawing and took it into illustrator where I could make some adjustments.

I began by clearing the images and extracting various marks.

I moved parts around so legs falling off wouldn't be part of the theme!

I adjusted the eyes, trying to use as much of the original drawing as possible.

I also decided to go with yellow and green as my colour choices as, continuing from the theme of race, I wanted to make a subtle remark that these characters were different ethnicities. I wanted to use yellow and green as they compliment each other, like all ethnicities do.

And made smiles more central.

I then began playing with different ideas for cover layouts.

Final Draft

I reflected my written response to my visual response by using children's drawings as my illustrations to symbolise that this is a children's book, written with children in mind, for children. I wanted to show the educational side of children's storybooks by using shapes (circles and triangles) and using a few so once the shapes had been identified they could be counted. The shapes on the dresses were also a way of showing a difference between the twins. I want the book to subtly discuss race and different ethnicities. One girl has triangles on her dress and the other has circles. One girl is green and the other is yellow, however, their birthday's are on the same day and they laugh at the same things. On the inside, I would use simple sentences and large lettering so they could be easily read by young children.


This week has been very insightful. Visual communication is something we interact with daily and this week has allowed me to be more aware of that and appreciate visual communication in its various forms. For the workshop challenge, I briefly looked into children's storybooks. Although brief, this challenge was mind-opening. I don't think I had previously fully appreciated the thought and idea processes that go into writing, illustrating, and designing a children's storybook. In regards to writing, there are numerous factors considered, the structure, language, how will it engage, is there a message, and does it appeal to a multicultural audience. The collaboration between the author and illustrator is also crucial to ensure the tone (and what I had mentioned above) is maintained. As well as this, it's also important to remember that "children" fall into a wide spectrum of ages, development, and learning abilities. This means that to write a children's book you have to be specific on age, is the book aimed at children under five or between eight and ten? narrowing this down will help you be more specific on a theme, language, and narrative. But most importantly, I'd like to draw upon the interview I mentioned previously with David Walliams, you have to get into the mind of a child before you even entertain the idea of writing.


Tate (2017). Futurism – Art Term | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/f/futurism [Accessed 25 Feb. 2021].

Moma.org. (2019). MoMA | What Is Modern Art? [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/what-is-modern-art/ [Accessed 25 Feb. 2021].

flex.falmouth.ac.uk. (n.d.). Log in to canvas. [online] Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/691/pages/week-5-lecture-written-communication?module_item_id=49384 [Accessed 25 Feb. 2021].

Time Out Croatia. (n.d.). Futurism, Dynamism and Colour | Art in Croatia. [online] Available at: https://www.timeout.com/croatia/art/futurism-dynamism-and-colour [Accessed 25 Feb. 2021].

Luminare Press. (2018). Six Essential Elements of Children’s Picture Books |. [online] Available at: https://www.luminarepress.com/six-essential-elements-of-childrens-picture-books/ [Accessed 1 Mar. 2021].

BBC Maestro (2020). Writing Books for Children – David Walliams – BBC Maestro. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZqmOCTkNdQ [Accessed 1 Mar. 2021].

The British Library. (n.d.). BLAST no. 1, the Vorticist magazine. [online] Available at: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/blast-no-1-the-vorticist-magazine# [Accessed 5 Apr. 2021].

Tate (2017). De Stijl – Art Term | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/de-stijl [Accessed 5 Apr. 2021].

Robin (2013). Past Print: New Graphic Design / issue 1 / September 1958. [online] Past Print. Available at: http://westread.blogspot.com/2013/05/new-graphic-design-issue-1-september.html [Accessed 5 Apr. 2021].

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