The Politics of Design: A (Not So) Global Manual for Visual Communication

The Politics of Design: A (Not So) Global Manual for Visual Communication

by Ruben Pater


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Many designs that appear in today's society will circulate and encounter audiences of many different cultures and languages. With communication comes responsibility; are designers aware of the meaning and impact of their work? An image or symbol that is acceptable in one culture can be offensive or even harmful in the next. A typeface or colour in a design might appear to be neutral, but its meaning is always culturally dependent. If designers learn to be aware of global cultural contexts, we can avoid stereotyping and help improve mutual understanding between people.

Politics of Design is a collection of visual examples from around the world. Using ideas from anthropology and sociology, it creates surprising and educational insight in contemporary visual communication. The examples relate to the daily practice of both online and offline visual communication: typography, images, colour, symbols, and information.

Politics of Design shows the importance of visual literacy when communicating beyond borders and cultures. It explores the cultural meaning behind the symbols, maps, photography, typography, and colours that are used every day. It is a practical guide for design and communication professionals and students to create more effective and responsible visual communication.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789063694227
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing
Publication date: 07/26/2016
Pages: 32
Sales rank: 457,835
Product dimensions: 4.40(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ruben Pater is a designer and researcher from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He finished the master programme of the Sandberg institute in 2012, and as 'Untold Stories' he works on self-initiated and collaborative projects between journalism and graphic design. Past projects are Double Standards (2012), the Drone Survival Guide (2013), and Behind the Blue Screen (2014). His work has received several international awards and is featured in exhibitions around the world.

Table of Contents


1 Typography and Language
• Introduction to Language and Communication
• Origins of Different Writing Systems
• Etymology and Con-text
• Ideograms and Alphabets explained
• Rosetta Stone: Bilingual Design
• How to Deal with Illiteracy
• Designing Logo’s Across Cultures
• Translation Fails
• URL’s and The Death of a Brand
• Capitalize: A History of Hierarchy and Power
• Lowercase, Modernism and Feminism
• Typefaces with Political Connotations
• Typefaces with Racial Connotations (Yellowface and Blackface)
• Comic Sans and Helvetica: a Matter of Taste
• Verbal Blackface
• Secret Writing; Cryptography

2. Image and Photography
• How to Understand Images
• Images and Ideology
• Difference in Perspectives
• Visual Colonisation: Racism and Images
• Cultural Appropriation and Exoticism
• A Case Against Political Correct Images
• Image Censorship
• Politics of Photoshop
• Truth about Cropping
• Gender Images and the Gaze
• Official vs. Unofficial Images
• Sahel Tumblr Memes
• Hidden Images, Steganography
• Safe Selfie Guide

3. Colour and Contrast
• Introduction to Color Systems and Meaning
• Meaning of Colours in Different Countries
• Test Girls of the 1960’s
• Racism in Camera Equipment
• Black and Rich Black
• Fifty Shades of Grey
• Luxury Colours, the Cost of Colour
• Forbidden Colors
• Grains and Dots
• Fluor and Metallic: Hazardous Colours
• No Free RGB

4. Symbols and Icons
• History of Symbols and Signs
• Reading and Understanding Symbols
• Ornaments and Universality
• Finding Ways
• Grids as a Mode of Control
• Evil Eye-cons and Superstition
• Sports Logo’s and Stereotypes
• Cameron Diaz and Maoism
• Heroes and Villains
• Signs Across the World
• ‘Special‘ Symbols, the Handicapped Symbol
• Designing for the Next 10.000 years
• Standards, ISO and DIN
• The Barcode as a Neoliberal Logo
• Labels of Ideology
• States and Official Symbols
• Draw and Divide, Populations and Symbols
• Patterns of Border Fences

6. Information Graphics and Maps
• Introduction to Data and Info-graphics
• Maps and Projections
• Maps as a Tool for Colonialism
• Many Kinds of Maps
• Find the Northern Star
• How to Lie with Statistics
• The Data and the Story
• Distorted Populations and Twitter Maps
• Forms and Nudging
• Misunderstanding Measurements
• Data Discrimination
• The Small Truth About Big Data
• Metadata as a Form of Activism
• Face Recognition and Bio-metrics


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