Design: Visual Perception

Subject: Design
Pages: 5
Words: 1613
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Undergraduate


In this project, the works of various traditional and contemporary designers who have fundamentally informed my research have primarily motivated me. I have identified six designers; three represent the traditional form of design while the other three depict the contemporary design. Firstly, the traditional designers who have influenced my career, and particularly this project includes Edward Penfield, Milton Glaser (Poster Design), and El Lissitzky. On examining El Lissitzky, I noted that political movements used his designs to spread propaganda during the political revolution. I have borrowed this aspect to spread the concept of critical examination of any form of advertising passed to the public. Their cumulative contribution rode on the premise excellent design led to a better society. Their contribution responded to the needs and challenges of the industrial revolution and technological progress.

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In exploring the works of the traditional designers, Edward Penfield, a renowned believer’s indirect approach informs the simplicity with which the project seeks to address its concerns. He proposed that posters should tell the audience a story once and that a poster requiring study is not a good poster. His principle of design finds space in this project because the imperative of educating the public should be smoothened by the ability of the poster to sound its significance without struggle. According to his research simplicity of design and style coupled, can inspire knowledge.

The contemporary scholars of design that I have found interesting ton this project are Robert Grudin, Edward Johnston, and Stanely Morison. Grudin’s basic belief in the eternity of truth in graphic design spins this project to its far heights. He asserted that designs mediate between the audience and the world and as such, they must truthfully speak about the world. They must willingly tell the world the truth about us. He categorically stated that good design is always honest and effective in its practice. Dishonest designs insult human aspirations and distort symmetries of nature (Grudin, 2009). On the other hand, Stanley Morison together with his contemporaries elevated consumer products by raising consumers’ consciousness. His designs mainly focused on the middle consumers with a belief that they held the hidden ability to turn around the industry.

Literature Review

In all phases of visual representation and style, designers play a critical role in controlling the amount of detail and sense created by their images. Vision appears as an effortless process that happens intuitively without struggle. Therefore, we can easily navigate around our perception and action to recognize objects around us. In a study conducted by Santella, artists and designers have succeeded in capturing the attention of many uninterested viewers among whom hostile viewers have fallen victims (15).

In his study, Santella noted that this success was because visual perception can mediate necessary information passed from the display to the end-user. As such, communication through design must confine itself to the laws of the visual system and psychology (17).

Advertising is a field, which employs the concept of visual perception to move the public through visual illusions. Paynor echoes Stuart Ewen’s views that advertising as a function has gained universal recognition through design. It is, therefore, imperative to move from this point with a realization that advertisement has gotten soaked into every aspect of human life (Barry 93).

According to many scholars, advertisement is an inescapable network that leaves the public with no option even the cynics (Santella 17). Design and the theory of artistry come in handy to facilitate advertising in its entirety. According to Paynor, when advertising utilizes graphic design is embedded in advertising, it becomes the texture of everyday life (124).

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Graphic design is the middle object mediating between value advertising and the viewer who tries to draw meaning from advertising content. It is arguable that if advertising is a function, then the design is ultimately a form through which this function gets accomplished. Based on this premise, studies have suggested that advertising and design are two separate identities, which cohere to establish lasting solutions to the visual needs of the public (Barry 93-96).

In a separate entity, Paynor asserts that in a pragmatic sense, advertising and design are not the same since the trial to cohabit them failed in the last four decades (125). Implicitly, the paradox that brings these two together is a mission to accomplish the task of uniting form and function to create meaningful representations. This move reaffirms the cultural and traditional imperative to utilize value design in modifying public perception. The interdependence between design and advertising renders these two phenomena inevitably correlated, although marketing becomes dependent on design for its success.

According to graphic scholars, the graphic design seeks to offer visual solutions to individuals and corporations. They provide value ads in communication strands involved in the process of advertising (Barry 93-96). According to Paynor, designers can play the role of interpreters to inspire the viewers to lead them toward new forms of seeing (126). Graphic designers have described their obligation as professionals seeking to create meaningful consensus in a wide range of agendas and for some; they can serve as trusted confidants. However to accomplish the mission of enabling a new way of seeing, graphic designers must be willing to remain loyal to their professional constructs while at the same time listening to the needs of their clientele. In doing so, they can see beyond the limits of mere observation to gain the attention of viewers, since a design seeks to demonstrate the truth.

Throughout its history, design and designers have been called upon to bring forth more than their aesthetic expertise in the process to change and create new public perceptions. The notion of the value-free design received much attention and debate in the last four to five decades. Individuals who believe that value-free design has contested the idea that designers should render their concerns to the underlying questions of politics and critical value creation. On the contrary, designers who view graphic design as a means of value creation have remained critical to the question of promoting products perceived as unfit for consumers. These developments in the field of graphic design are in tandem with the rise of consumerism (Barry 93-96). A shift of mindset from product marketing toward the creation of a different meaning remains the center of attraction of many design professionals. Ardent believers of value designs have emphasized the need to challenge the status quo by way of perspectives expressed through a critique of the function and role of design in creating value to viewers who fall victims to the inevitable effects of advertising.

The designer acting within the professional framework always faces the inevitable challenge of translating his skill to shift the status quo in a bid to model an excellent design proposal (Paynor 130). The question that Paynor asks is, “what is the role of designers in this situation?” In his manifesto, “First Things First,” Ken Garland proposed together with those who signed it that the designers had the role of redefining their role in the context of visual communication. In his contribution, Garland drew a critical distinction between design as persuasive and as communication that gave people requisite information for value decision-making. In the view of the proponents of the manifesto, the huge talents and effort of designers expended on advertising trivial objects impaired the real tasks of graphic design. The British designer, Jock Kinnier nodded to this view saying that designers who depart from this trend are concerned more with information rather than persuasion. Similarly, income brackets but more with efficiency, physiology, and amenity do not drive them. Research literature documents the struggle for reality and critical design. The fundamental question is, “to whose interest is this struggle?” This question should remain the concern of designers at least in two senses; first, designers are like the rest of the public who inevitably consumed advertising ads. Secondly, they are professionals representing reality and shifting visual surfaces through communication. In the wake of commercial advertising, individuals and the public have the role and responsibility of withstanding technological proliferation and its persuasive imagery. However, if the thinking beings are capable of holding this responsibility, then the designer as the creator of those technologies has a double obligation (Paynor 128).

The behavioral concern of visual designers has to do with the way graphic communications affect the behavior and attitudes of their audience. In a study conducted by Bennet, the role of graphic designers transcends the obvious function of aesthetics. As such, designers are always actively seeking dialogue with both their clients and other professionals to make good out of their practice (29). The fundamental objective of the designer is to produce more formidable and clear communication necessary for facilitating the creation of value. The decision-making process inherent in graphic design and artistry relies on the concept of duality. The process revolves around considerations of intuitive leaps and the creation of objective information. Although artistic intuition is necessary for their practice, designers should concretely base their decisions on objectivity rather than intuition (Bennet 32).

Bennet notes that messages by designers are effective in representing and ordering common visual representations of society (52). Therefore, it possesses within itself the potential to affect the viewers. Visual communication can inspire change in behavior via the generation of knowledge, action, or the creation of experience among viewers (Büchler 4). Relying on this rhetoric, designers and viewers can co-construct meaning through images. To develop valuable images capable of changing the perceptions of the viewers, graphic designers have the responsibility not to rely on intuition alone but also on truth.

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The role of visual communications is to persuade its audience to adopt a new form of perception and belief (Büchler 4; Bennet 32).


Barry, Ann M. “Perception and Visual Communication Theory”. Journal of visual Literacy 22.1 (2002): 91-106.

Bennett, Audrey. Design studies: theory and research in graphic design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. Print.

Büchler, Daniel. “The artifact as visible materialization: visual perception informing object analysis”. Working Papers in Art and Design 3, 2004. Web.

Paynor, Rick. Obey the giant: life in the image world. London: August Media Ltd, 2001. Print.

Santella, Antony. The Art of Seeing: Visual Perception in Design and Evaluation of Non-Photorealistic Rendering, 2005. Web.