Evaluating Visual Language

Whether you lay a heavy hand towards Gestaltism, or go for a Postmodernist style, visual language is the interface between a graphic and a viewer. The work I am producing for this project creates a very intimate space with the viewer in which the concept of theory and my practice have led my design decisions which have emotionally controlled the layout, materials and typographical placement and techniques.

As design protocol, I  test my work with a broad range of subjects for their initial response in and out of my targeted audience. I tested with a female audience of 5, ages 14, 18, 18, 23, and 76, and the visual language was clear (the 76 year old got goose bumps!) The reasoning behind this was to double-check for modesty and self-objectification, since this project is on selfies, before throwing the work out there.

Confident with my designs, I pushed forward to the next phase, the critique:

Before finalizing my designs, part of the process is to have my work critiqued and then evaluate the visual language and communication from there. This can be a frustrating process in the refinement phase, and often times you find that when you have had your ‘moment’ with the work, and unexpected critique may throw you for a loop. Keeping in mind that different people will have different reactions to my work, but it’s important to understand why they respond in the way they do. (Cheng 2013)

drawing board

Shappee, M 2018 (Back to the Drawing Board) Photograph by author

In this particular situation, the question as to whether a satirical symbol would be missed by some of the audience has led me to question myself about whether the visual language of my project has been culturally determined, therefore, leaving out the broader audience…maybe it’s too tight, maybe it’s not obvious enough. In a sense, yes, it is. And the targeted audience will get it…but in another hand, it should also consider a global culture, and the last thing I want is for the language to be misunderstood.

I am aware that the context in which visual language appears, completely alters the meaning. In this sense, this critique may not have considered the platform or intent of the zine, its meaning or objective. It is important to analyze why there is a conflict in the critique. Should I continue refining even though I am pleased with the project thus far? Am I too attached? When is the defining moment?

Or, maybe the critique should something to celebrate.

Arguably, considering the broad audience, you can’t expect everyone to understand 100% of the visual language without having to work at it, and that to me, is perfectly fine. The purpose of this zine is to educate and bring awareness. If a viewer has to google a symbol within the works, good for them! I hope they learn something new! Although I am not anticipating that this would happen, there is always the slight chance that it may.

As I continue to critically process the objectives of my project and what the end result needs to accomplish I am led to the following decision.

One of my thoughts is that because this is part of the bigger picture when complete, all will be reconciled within the whole. Having said that, I think I should take some of the suggestions to determine how specific changes can achieve the best possible design solution (Cheng, 2013) for the practice module and then wait until the very end to re-evaluate the project as a whole, allowing extra time for refinements. This may mean forgoing a portion of the critique suggestions.



Cheng, K. (2013) How to Survive a Critique: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback [online] https://www.aiga.org/how-to-survive-a-critique/ [accessed 04-24-2018]

Malamed, C. (2009) Gestalt Your Graphics: Improving Instructional Graphics [online] https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/157/gestalt-your-graphics-improving-instructional-graphics [accessed 04-22-2018]

Shappee, M. (2018) Back to the Drawing Board. Charcoal on paper


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