The original meanings of images and design have been changed through today’s constant barrage of these same images and design. Their removal from their original context gives them new meanings, some intentional and some unintentional. For an example of unintentional change, take an image that was originally in a church. This image’s meaning used to enhance and add to that church and the church added and enhanced the meaning of the image. We’ve now put this image in a museum and it has lost its connection to the church and thus, lost the meaning and significance it once had. The image’s meaning changes to that of a relic and its intended message is now to educate about the lives of the people who once lived near it. Original context is usually what is missing in the images of art that we see on TV and in books as well. We don’t know why these images were created, for whom they were created, or necessarily what message the creator was trying to convey. We see the content, what’s in the image, but without knowing its context we are unable to fully understand it.
As designers, we can try to understand how these images and designs are currently being used to spread new ideas and to communicate. We can study what their current intended communication is and we can learn how these images and designs are perceived in the various settings of people’s homes, classrooms, etc. Learning about design as well as understanding how different people may perceive an image’s intended message in these various settings allows us to give images new meaning and to better form and re-form our own communication, taking advantage of different people’s perceptions. Using others’ imagery and ideas to help communicate our own allows for the efficient creation and spread of new ideas and messages.
Copyright laws affect how we can use others’ ideas and imagery and how others can use ours. These laws do protect us and allow us to make a living with the communications, designs, and imagery that we create. Learning about design and imagery allows us to understand how they have been removed from their original meaning and that there are laws that, at least temporarily, protect our images and design from being removed from their original meanings. Understanding how the meanings of design and imagery are constantly changing through today’s media and how they are used to spread new ideas allows us to also communicate and spread ideas in modern media.