Case Study: Graphic Design #vizpoem

This post is an interview I conducted with my former student, the very talented Justin Tran, some of whose work appears below in order to illustrate his responses. If you are interested in seeing more or contacting him about his work, his twitter handle is @justinduytran and his website is here. I highly recommend it!

1. A visual poem is a poem that uses images (usually digital) to provocatively supplement some text. Considering visual poetry is thus a combination of text and images, how might we distinguish it from graphic design? 
I think it’s important to think of graphic design as type and image coming together to form a whole, where each of these elements maintains a symbiotic relationship with each other rather than image simply being a supplementary element to the text.

2. When you are “doing” graphic design, do you start with images or do you start with text? In other words, do you think of a certain message or tone you want to convey first, and then create the look of the piece, and then put in text, or do you start with a script of text and then think of images to populate the design?

The core communicative portion of a design (the message intended to be carried across), for the most part, lies within the text. For example, when a client needs a poster designed around a particular event or program, there are almost always specific words in the copy included in the brief that the designer must include and design around, whether it be providing illustrations with the type or making some of the type part of the image. All-in-all, type definitely does influence and comes before visual and stylistic decisions.
3. Visual poets, perhaps predictably, have some trouble being taken seriously by more conventional, text-only poets and the audiences they’ve trained to expect only text. What sorts of biases, mistaken interpretations, boneheaded mistakes, maddening frustrations, etc, do you face as a graphic designer that might run parallel to those faced by visual poets?
Originality is probably my #1 concern. I always strive to veer away from what I’ve done in the past in order to increasingly think on my own as opposed to being heavily influenced by other illustrators/designers and current stylistic trends. As with most, if not all creatives, it’s never good to be satisfied with your work, and it’s always due to the fact that I self-assess my work a few days after completion and the verdict always ends up being to exert more energy into future work to be more original and not be swallowed up by visual fads that continue to become more and more ubiquitous. This is likely a direct concern of the realm of visual poetry; I imagine the issue of illustrations being stylistically eclectic while having to appropriately supplement the poem is very present.
4. So, the analogy I’ve come up with between graphic design and visual poetry is similar to the way I think of the difference between a picture posted with captions to instagram and a tweet with an image attached. The former is created with the intention to be looked at first and then read, while the latter is created with the intention to be read and then looked at. Or perhaps we might say that the affordances of instagram are more inherently visual, while the affordances of twitter are inherently textual. This isn’t really a question, but could you wordily respond to my analogy?
While the analogy certainly is similar, a design could differ from either a captioned Instagram photo or a photo tweet in that the two elements (type & image) in both of these instances are viewed separately at a time. As mentioned before, both of these elements as they exist within a design rely on each other to form a balanced visual composition with the intention of drawing the viewer’s eye throughout the entire piece, and thus enjoying the type and image elements simultaneously. Having said all of that, graphic design is sort of a fence-sitter about this one. While a “graphic” design is meant to stimulate visually, its type component remains indispensible in textually explaining the subject of said design.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s