a question

After talking with John Dale, Associate Professor of the Writing and Cultural Studies department at UTS, I've had a small epiphany. I've been so concerned about focusing on the 'design perspective' that some incredibly obvious questions have been eluding me:

what are the potentials for graphic elements to effect new writing?
what can visual communications contribute to new writing?
Until now, I've been so focused on needing to explore a 'way of working' from a design perspective that I've overlooked where the design output ends up. What's most useful about this research is the potential for design to contribute to (some) writing, and vice-versa. At this stage, I need to return to the relationship between text and image, and also between writer and image maker/designer. I also return the problem that critique of illustrated literature seems to come almost entirely from the 'word', rather than 'image' camp (from my own research and discussions like Hammond & Heltzel 2004: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=57&aid=70817)

So, by analysing writing with integrated graphic elements A) historically and B) currently I will present an analysis of image-text relationships in fiction, from a designer's perspective. Then, I will explore, through practice, the potentials using integrated graphic elements as a literary device in new writing.

WHAT will it be: A) an analysis of existing forms; B) a set of 'projects' created by me and executed by both myself and other writers and designers; C) reflections and projections of the process of B; D) presentation of A, B, C in as book.

WHO is it for: designers, writers, publishers (as a way to practice/produce books); critics and readers (as a guide to reading the visual); academics (as a way to research, reflect on practice, and present research).

  • How/why do writers use graphic elements (by locating and analysing, by contacting authors/publishers)?
  • Are writers collaborating with artists/designers or taking on the image generation themselves (writer becomes illustrator: Jim Davis, 'Illustrated Guides', Design Week 23 Feb 2006).
  • Does the text exist before the image, or are they produced simultaneously?


Ben said…
Hi Zoe,

Maybe this is a really dumb question, but how are you defining 'new writing'? There are a few quite different descriptions floating around and I'd be interested to learn exactly which angle you're framing your inquiries with.

Also, most would agree a brilliant book can be designed terribly and still be good. The question that follows is 'can a brilliantly designed terrible book also be good?'

What do you think?
Zoe said…
Hi Ben,
I'm toying with the term 'new writing' as a substitute for 'contemporary fiction', which was limiting me to one genre. I'm talking literally about writing that is new, but I guess particularly writing which is open to experimentation with form and style. Many literary magazines - Granta, Pleiades,etc - label themselves as journals 'of New Writing'.

When I ask what visual communications can offer to NEW writing, I am emphasising the fact that I want to explore potentials. I will, of course, be looking at how graphic elements have been employed in writing both previous and currently, but the main drive of my inquiry is to explore where this marriage of image and text could go.

From a design perspective, of course a brilliantly designed dog of a book can be called good - if you're critiquing the aesthetic. But if you're judging the quality of the book in terms of how 'good' it is as a text, no amount of icing can cover the fact that the cake tastes bad. To use an uninspired metaphor.

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