Visible Language


An independent scholarly journal published continuously since 1967.

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A Schema for Depiction

Stephen Boyd Davis

ProQuest  EBSCO

The article proposes a five-part schema for analyzing the design process in constructing visual representations. Its purpose is to highlight the multiple ways in which the objectives of a design influence the final form: pictorial pragmatism, driven by the objectives, is taken to be the dominant force in determining that form. The schema is valuable when considering the relationship between aspects of the reality to be modeled and those of the designed representation. While accepting that a useful distinction is captured by the terms realistic and metaphorical, an argument is developed that this distinction cannot be strictly held. The notion of expressivity is examined and the pragmatic model of depiction is further explored, in which expressivity often is shown to be increased by mismatches between what is seen and its graphical representation. The aims of the article are: to question simplistic models of depiction; to provide a simple but robust framework for thinking about depiction and related forms of designing; and to act as a guide in the advanced education of designers, in particular making them aware of the extent of the choices open to them.