Design and Translation









Word to Image - Image to Word: The Contribution of Visual Communication to Understanding and Dialog

Michael Renner

University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)

Keywords: interpretation, hermeneutics, visual communication, communication design, practice-led iconic research


Translation, understood as an interpretation of experience, opens a broad field of inquiry into a variety of disciplines. Hans-Georg Gadder’s description of hermeneutics as a language-based methodology to develop understanding, insight, and agreement within a group, serves as the starting point to analyze the practice of visual communication as a form of interpretation, negotiation, and insight. In a first step, the paper discusses the process of drawing and its relationship to interpretation. The classification of drawing as a gestural activity establishes a link to recent anthropological theories, which see gestures as precursors of the human language. Through an analysis of processes in the field of corporate design, we can strengthen the hypothesis that images follow a logic that is only partially accessible through words. In respect to interpretation, the images of an identity visualization follow a convention held in our collective memory or derived from preconceptions and provide a new aspect of a familiar experience to a beholder. Following this line of thought, the paper suggests that “practice-led iconic research” is a methodology that uses a systematic generation of images to advance our knowledge of images. Going back to the initial question of a language-oriented hermeneutics, we can conclude that, in the context of iconic research, the combination of experimental image creation and the analysis of these images with the help of words leads to a uniqe insight. The generation and analysis of visual variations is comparable to a discursive and language-based methodology in hermeneutics which requires that various contrasting aspects be considered. 

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Renner, M (2016). Word to Image - Image to Word: The Contribution of Visual Communication to Understanding and Dialog. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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