Design and Writing

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Culture has bequeathed us the status of mere supermarket repositories. As exemplary staffers, we put each of the things on their shelves, that is, in easily recognizable categories. A discourse, following its ideological tendency – its absence is a tendency -, determines tastes and attitudes and, more extremist, the denial of a certain fact. The creation of a world in which pictorial art and written language are opposites is one of these market intellectual tendencies.

Writing is the fixation of the linguistic code that systematizes all our communication by speech. An animal being hunted in a parietal inscription belongs to the plane of representation. However, for hunting techniques to be improved by the hunter community, they obviously need the language code. A dialectic of hunting through pictorial images would take months until its conclusion – which would also occur with the hunters’ death by starvation. But speech, with its speed and precision, allows a dialectical movement for the technical enhancement of the culture, producing our techniques, tools, weapons and hunting routines. The linguistic code allows us, above all, to conclude on the best support for pictorial representation of hunting or simply the kind of representation.

The division into two worlds (drawing and writing) generates results throughout history. That is why paragon between painting and writing persists in our time. Even Leon Battista Alberti, in his De Pictura (1435) 2, the painting accompanied the parameters of classical poetry impassively for its realization. The inventio – part of the rhetoric that means invention – determined much of the production of painters like Caravaggio, Michelangelo among others. Therefore, the scenario in the paintings was the determining component. Ut pictura poesis: poetry as painting. An addition: poetry, for many, translates into something mellow – usually nothing melodious – present in songs from the repertoire of mass culture. That is not what happens here. Poetry is the pair itself composed with rhetoric, the art (or technique) of oratory. What differentiates them is a matter of procedures, from the use of metrics, in the case of poetry, to the matter to be treated: a deliberation in assembly is not the same as a lyric poetry on a patrician’s birthday. But the techniques are very similar, especially placere, docere et movere (pleasure, teaching and moving). Persuasion is the weapon of rhetoric. Poetry educates, as in Vergil.

Returning to the pictorial art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the search was a narrative painting – “putting before the eyes”, that is, the rhetorical and poetic concept enargeia. But Leonardo da Vinci, in his “Treatise on Painting”, already questioned this relation painting / poetry. Postulating a proper discourse for painting, aspects elaborated so as to give a genuine “poetic” discourse for painting as a perception of reality and effect of reality, start to complement the demands. The generated inheritance was received centuries later. The result of this historical stance is notorious: the modernist vanguards. However, they were free from grief in relation to linguistic discourse, they were based on aesthetic experiences of literature, still, to compose their model, completely freeing themselves from the restriction of the narrative. Certainly the poetry of Mallarmé holds a thread until the navel of Dada – Dada is the sound of the baby and many other meanings. In turn, modern poetry began to explore extra-linguistic resources. The painting transcended the canvas and won the speech as the basis of pictorial speech. “The Dark Picture,” by Kasimir Malevich, is one such example. Without the title, the mood effect is emptied. And so is irony.

After looking at a past that was so tedious and loaded with confusing and useless terms for the ride in the mall, we landed in the twenty-first century. One of the products that the modernist vanguards offered us was graphic design. Unlike painting, even the avant-garde, this one has a mandatory binding and a commitment to writing. What is the function of graphic design? The frequent question commits itself to unsatisfactory answers about its aspect and function. Having said so, the dialectical movement between painting and poetry is an end in itself: aesthetic. The genesis of graphic design lies in the synthesis: text and image in simple terms. For this reason alone, the image (scribble, drawing or painting) resembles Renaissance painting as an exercise and technical enargeia( putting it before the eyes).


The technical improvements in painting by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, or, even earlier, the elaboration of the concept of perspective, are very similar symptoms to what is currently seen. The technical clearance of the design allows possibilities of plastic expression that we never had before our eyes. However, the error in producing a semantic void is as great or greater than the same possibilities. Design, using the remains of pictorial abstraction, finds its bottleneck in ostracistic abstractionism. That is, it finds images without irony, humor or any sign of meaning, almost pasteurized illustrations in models taken from the shelf as the latest in shampoo for the teeth. Apparently new and original, the text is a typo: they tried to write shampoo for lenses. The figurative representation is terrain of illustration – the boundary between illustration and design must be dealt with on another occasion – but without the mystical Catholic transcendence. Soon tending to the simple representation of worlds without historical consistency. Without the text, one of the premises of this syllogism, graphic design is a historically amorphous, aesthetically sterile technical exercise. For this case, just remember a Parnassian lesson: with perfect metric, respecting ictus, perfect rhymes and always having a golden key at hand, no poetry is done. Anyway since the designer draws types, because they do not improve the destination reserved for them.

• Paragone is an Italian term meaning competition. See the excellent work of Márcio Seligmann-Silva, Laocoon or on the frontiers of painting and poetry, Illuminations, 1998.



Visual identity systems

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After World War II, the design effectively contributed to trade relations within the capitalist mode of production. Through visual identity systems, companies found a model that allowed the much-desired universality in the way they communicate, necessary to reach different markets and cultures. Olivetti, IBM, and many others have applied such systems. And, if it were in the US, in Brazil, the consumer’s perception of credibility of the brand was a fact.

The principle governing this system is simple: the quality of staying the same – idem ibidem ad eternum – allows the sign to be recognized. It may have roots in semiology, but Nature is a pioneer in the subject: so-and-so has a dimple on the chin, a hooked nose, curly hair, and so on. The repetition of its characteristics allows it to be quickly identified by a series of peculiarities enclosed within a system. Even if the individual coexists in the future with sparse strands of hair.

There is discussion about the rigidity of the proposal. And also the obvious polemic over universality. A system that repeats itself in Brazil as well as in the USA incurs the mistake of denying the particularities, that is, the so-called regionalisms and their cultural diversities. We enter the paradox. But we leave it then, because what interests us is the applicability of the visual identity system.

First we determine the object, in this case the mark. That is, a sign that shares two semiological systems, writing and drawing. In the first case, we have the statement, for example, IBM or Coca-Cola. In the second, the spelling that uses typological and iconological resources. Thus we have two plans: the discourse, to which branding positions itself as a subject; the pictorial, for which the graphic design emerges. In fact, there is no opposition between subjects, but complementarity. Returning to the personification of the brand, imagine the life of an individual. How to present it in different times, at 12 and 40 years, without losing the identity?

The graphic design allows the brand to find a system in which graphic elements will recur, allowing the perception of the particularities of the brand in adverse situations and diverse media. From the folder to the website, from the card to the signage, from the press kit to the social report, the graphic designer will structure and perpetuate a visual concept. The system, depending on the proposal, will involve more or less tonal variations – as in jazz. And the result will be perceived in the whole of the work, in the repetition of elements, in the realization of the imaginary universe, in the long-term project. And above all in the perception of the consuming public. Roughly speaking, the contrast between communication based on a visual identity system and another generated in improvisation and lack of planning is remarkable, since the former establishes itself in space, transpiring, through graphic elements, its brand values.

Is a project of this scope only accessible to large corporations? No, it’s not. The evolution of the technological processes and the valorization of the graphic designer allow the accessibility to projects of implementation of visual identity systems within values ​​compatible with the financial reality of companies, be they regional or globalized.


Forgotten by Art


The subject is arid, subject to controversy and formed by oxidizing matter. It is only necessary the introduction to the public and we become all versed in it. And the sparks pop up everywhere. However, it is a relevant subject for a few. And the few people who are interested are passionate about the issues that surround it. The subject is art. And you, dear reader, must be frowning the wrinkled or filled with botox forehead at this poor mortal. Be patient because it will be short, as I do not intend to deal with all art. The intention is to speculate on the following question: what drives the artist to make art?

The path I propose is not a shortcut. Even because others have dealt with far more property, depth, and intelligence than this poor author. Before reaching the final point of this bus line that crosses rugged and hostile territories, I choose to insert in the discussion the term aletheia (ἀλήθεια). A lot of people know a lot about this Greek word that does not really mean Truth. Not in the terms that we conceive it these days. I turn to the trunk of the old Greek classes and introduce Charon, who takes the dead to hell, crossing a river with his boat. The name of this river is Lethe. Lethe is that wet – as it is a river – and mythical place that is crossed to reach Hades – the Greek hell. It is worth to highlight: one arrives at Hades after being killed. But dead in another sense, because, for the archaic Greeks, dying entails a sense of being “forgotten,” or, perhaps more properly, non-being. In this sense, lethe (Λήθη) is to veil, cover up, non-being. Timely return of the term aletheia to the conversation. Because aletheia is to reveal. Reveal what was forgotten. In classical Greek poetry, the idea of ​​the poet crying out to the muses – the daughter goddesses of Zeus and the goddess Memoria (Mnemosyne) – to tell us something that, by chance, is hidden, forgotten, is the commonplace per excellence. Without the muses, the poet is unable to recall the deeds of the great heroes of the past. Without the muses, there is no poetry, there is no story to be told. Without the muses, there is no truth – aletheia. The history of the archaic Greeks is written in time in this way, through rescued memory, obviously, by a mechanism called poetry. Poetry has much more a collective than an individual dimension. Although they refer to Homer, Homer has an existence that is not subjective, almost fictitious.

In general terms, it is worth recalling and summarizing the paragraph above: forgetting is non-being; remembering, being. Somewhat schematic. However useful, hereinafter. I confess that I am curious about the other subject previously proposed and I have not forgotten it, which comes down to a common question: why do we make art? (Or why do some make art?) It seems like a questioning so worn and trivialized, but that carries a collective dimension that few realize. I venture an empirical and speculative hypothesis. To talk about art, we need to talk about the artist – I use the term art in the lower case to break that high, divine aura that always lends to it. Because art is the consequence of someone, just by-product of mind and body, the author. Sometimes a collective produces art, a set of hands and minds. Let us think of the cinema, which, from the perspective of the under-camera, does not detract us from considering the author as such, since the authors of a cinematographic work perform pieces of the whole work and are satisfied with this execution. The Artist! Why did he decide to do it? I would say that there is a natural and intuitive will to perpetuate. When we register something, we want it to be perpetual. This is our brand, registration. We record using art, which is, in a proper way, technical. Art is technique that we use to record. Like a carpenter who carves the wood, sculpts it and shapes a table. When, in those shuffling moments of our walks through the city, we perceive on the pavements inscriptions of names and dates, we are faced with pure art: applied technique to perpetuate. We come across a statement that says, “Look! I made this sidewalk. I was here! I existed and I exist. ” What motivations led the subject to record this statement? To historically perpetuate? Yes, it is built, with that vulgar statement, History. Probably a historical cut from a micro history. Not the collective history, but the metonymy of the collective. Knowing the social dimension of this writing on the sidewalk is another task. For the moment, art, in the sense of result, has this historical potentiality. As a social agent, the artist must register historically. I would say that it replicates a biological model of perpetuation, an atavistic model. Plotting a parallel with life in other manifestations of existence, we have parents and children, an elemental and natural combination of clan perpetuation evident in the paternal pride of their offspring and the maintenance of their genetic writing – if not in those very precise terms, in a metaphorical way, when the father admires himself in seeing reflected in others his abilities, mannerisms and appearance. In the natural environment, animals perpetuate their species, necessary and constantly. In the cultural environment, the human being seeks to perpetuate, beyond his brown or blue eyes, all his tradition – lineage with all the ancestors and heroic acts. I would venture to insert an abstract and subjective concept that motivates and justifies this practice of perpetuation: fear. Moved by the fear of death, forgetfulness, we desperately need to register in time, or lend permanence to what keeps us beyond the physical body, which keeps us eternal. Every being wants to remain as long as it is – and deny non-existence (lethe). Imagine that, in building a text, it permeates the collective, the social. Let us say that I, this author, die, preferably after the end of this text, and these ideas that were exposed here spread throughout the world. Even dead, I will have clear proof of my existence on earth. How often do we refer to our favorite artists with an intimacy of old friends? “Da Vinci, old man, what are you doing now? I really enjoyed your paintings on my last visit to France! ” And what leads us to seek this degree of intimacy with someone who has died long ago? Insecurity? Loneliness? The need to fraternize and enter the doors of such a large and faithful clan? To be part of it? Since we cannot paint such complex works, do we at least want to be part of this family?

Fear of forgetfulness. The artist, probably unconsciously, seeks to register historically, or inscribe his culture and his clan. Registering the animals on walls is nothing more than the need to record the historical discourse and perpetuate thealetheia, keeping the hunting event with all its ritualistic nuances unveiled. The artist does not need to perpetuate a child, but to perpetuate a work, to which he says: “Parla!” The work, as enunciated component of a historical discourse, will say, to cry out through the ages, the existence of the individual and collective set of beliefs and values. Somehow, the inscription of a bricklayeron a sidewalk finds correlation with the sculpture of the so-called artist, as of Da Vinci’s. What sets them apart? Historical permanence and relevance. In a simplistic way, success in the endeavor of becoming eternal as long as it lasts.