Mauricio’s thoughts

For my reaction, I decided to simulate a situation (sorry I did not follow the directions). I supposed that I have to find principles of photography applicable to information design. This is to say how photography can be efficient communicating information and accounting mainly for understanding. I tried to identify valuable concepts of photography that could be or become principles for information design. Surprisingly, the text allowed me to learn better why information design uses more abstract graphics such as illustrations and diagrams than photography.

I found the first concept in at the beginning of Sontag’s essay when she said that “both the order and exact time for looking at each photograph are imposed; and there is a gain in visual legibility and emotional impact” (p. 282). This idea of thorough selection of time and frame can give clarity and attraction to an image, which is also crucial in information design. Applied in the right way, designers can create unified semantics and understandable visual objects.

The second concept is that “photographs may be more memorable than moving images” (p. 286). This is relevant because the more memorable an image is the more information processing and understanding may imply. Sontag explained this effect within the context of political-war communication, which limits the scope of the concept and its application to information design. Besides, some visual explanations may be more efficient using moving images.

Image from book Imagen Didactica, Joan Costa and Abraham Moles

One concept that actually neglects photographs in information design is that all photos “have multiple meanings” (p.288). This might be one reason why most information design uses illustrations because the designer can disregard elements that may change meaning. However, there are not absolute rules in information and photographs (or edited photographs) may be also efficient. In the example (right) that explain how a set of pans works, the photograph media is used correctly. Also it is evident how the framing is carefully set to reduce unnecessary elements and focus the understanding.

The last identified concept surprised me. Sontag pointed out that “Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph” (p. 288, my underline) because we accept photographs as a record of real world and understanding begins from distrusting the perceptions of real world. This argument also led me to learn why illustrations and diagrams are so often used in information design.

My final thought is that designers when selecting media in the creation of visual objects should consider these properties of photography. Although it seems to have more disadvantages, it can be appropriate according to the circumstances.


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