The intersect between Survey of the History of Graphic Design and Linguistics

That said, as I try to reconcile the information from the classes yesterday, I’m reminded of how amazing people are. Consider how mankind has managed to transmit knowledge learnt from generation to generation. It’s why we have cars today, because our ancestors made tools that have been handed down and developed over time! During History of Graphic Design (DV2003) taught by Astrid Kensinger (who is also teaching Typography I), she spoke of the start of graphic design in pictographs and ideographs, both symbols to represent objects/things and ideas/concepts respectively. Evidently, this was a huuuge leap in thought for mankind.

In the beginning, people carved past events, their hunting expeditions, tales of epic hunts on walls. It was a narrative of sorts, of someone and something. One can understand from the art on the wall that a “gigantic bear attacks hunters”.

Then, it became more stylised. We might start getting symbols for hand, paw, teeth. So the action can be conveyed in writing as “gigantic bear attacked hunter with paw and teeth”. More specificity can be expressed through these simpler symbols. Ideographs, symbols that convey concepts and ideas further enrich the written language. So we can express “gigantic bear attacked hunters unexpectedly”. Intangible things like emotions can also be expressed, such as “hunters were surprised, raised spears and fought”. Chronology, past, present and future ideas might also be expressed! Symbols might even be put together to form a new meaning! Like 木, 林, and 森; wood/tree to forest.

Please note that I am not expert in the development of these things, okay! The above is how I understand petroglyphs, pictographs and ideographs. In fact, the written word could be far more complex and elaborate, like the Cuneiform below:

cuneiform and it's translation
cuneiform and it’s translation

Astrid mentioned that people who could read and write such as scribes, were the elite, and considered magicians of some sort. Being literate was power. Well, given how complicated their writing system is, it’s understandable.

Oh! Here’s a really helpful presentation online that distinguishes pictographs from ideographs. (It’s where the featured image is from)

I think this really ties into HG1001 Mind and Meaningbecause how do we look at words, read them, and actually understand what it means? The word is merely the vehicle through which we understand an idea, which is why “happy” can be expressed as 开心, 楽しい, onnellinen, ευτυχισμένος, سعيد. (Google translate was used for quite a number of the above translations: Chinese, Japanese, Finnish, Greek and Arabic), which (I assume) means about the same thing, just in different languages. Fascinating!

That’s about it for now. Class will start soon.


A few more cool ideographs from the Internet:

ideograph 2

ideograph 1


Because I have been convinced

Yes. The nice OSS ladies have persuaded me to believe that OSS will be a good platform to keep my progress/research. And well, considering how scatterbrained I get sometimes, OSS might just be the solution;) Thus, this post is here. It’ll be more of a thought diarrhoea though. So it’s not really a “work” per se. Just random thoughts.

Confession: LMS (NTU) rejected my application and appeal, which was what landed me in ADM. I fretted over not getting into the course, and worried over how I’d fit into ADM. Looking back, I’m very grateful for the initial rejection. Especially because the lecturer of HG1001 Mind and Meaning has very, very generously granted a couple of us entry into the foundation LMS course, meaning then that I can pursue both art/design and linguistics. My current goal is to somehow marry these two diverse and fascinating studies together!

I attempted it last semester for 4DII, but I feel that it was a work that didn’t do sufficient justice to either. You could even call it a rather unromantic arranged marriage. Sighs. I’m very sure that it can be a super meaningful and satisfying one though! (a post/reflection might come up when there’s time, but this semester will be ridiculously busy so it’s not in the foreseeable future…yet) So, imagine my euphoria upon being accepted into HG1001 to study linguistics alongside current/future linguists!

On to what spurred this post. Lecture 2’s topic is on Animal Communication. This caught my eye:

a lexigram, taken from
a lexigram

This is a lexigram. It is one of the medium through which researchers have been teaching primates to communicate with humans. These symbols are on buttons which the apes press to input them. What’s surprising about this artificial language, called Yerkish, is that the buttons have to be pressed in a specific order, much like how humans speak. The reason why this is so fascinating is because such structure in speech is not natural for apes (it might be debatable if this is natural to humans too). In fact, when taught American Sign Language (which had limited success so far), the chimp signing “Bob tickle Ali” and “Ali tickle Bob” could mean that either Bob tickled Ali (Ali being the victim), or Ali tickled Bob (meaning that Bob was victim to Ali’s amusements). So the fact that chronology can be imparted and expressed is quite interesting.

It helps also that the symbols are highly visual and very abstract. It is one thing for the chimp to learn the symbolic vocabulary for objects, but expressing their own emotional state is another matter altogether, because it first requires reflecting on oneself, understanding that emotion, and connecting that intangible, invisible emotion to the appropriate symbol for others to see. Which is actually some pretty big leaps that we often take for granted simply because it comes so naturally.

The above image is taken from Art for Bonobo Hope.

Anyway, I haven’t completely processed most of the information. It’s too late in the night to do that after a full day of school. Nerdy me is looking forward to lecture tomorrow though haha!

Until next time;)


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