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The dimensions of graphic design and its spheres of influence

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journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2012, 10:20 by Robert G. HarlandRobert G. Harland
This paper further expands on the concern about how we depict graphic design to explain its relationships (both “internal” and “external”) for the purposes of education, research, and practice. The initial development of this concern led to the identification of what has been described as the critical dimensions of graphic design, and this inquiry has required the analysis and proposed redefinition of the subject’s plural domains. The attempt to depict these critical dimensions, or domains, benefitted from a diagrammatic modeling exercise, discussed formally in 20071 after having first been outlined a year earlier.2 This exercise demonstrated how the traditional definitions, from which the subject emerged and with which it became identified in the first half of the twentieth century, could be represented in diagrammatic form, creating a contemporary interpretation of the subject. The present author has used the visual method of diagrams as a form of rational inquiry to illustrate the shift from traditional to contemporary ways of thinking about the graphic design (Figure 1). The traditional interpretation of graphic design in diagrammatic form by this author, seen on the left, owes much to the way urban design is shown, by Jon Lang in 2005, to have emerged from the overlap between architecture, landscape architecture, city planning and civil engineering.3 Whereas the contemporary model seen on the right evolved from numerous attempts by this present author since 2001 to use diagrams as an effective tool for teaching graphic design to students within and without the subject.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • Arts


HARLAND, R.G., 2011. The dimensions of graphic design and its spheres of influence. Design Issues, 27 (1), pp. 21 - 34.


© Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press)


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This article was published in the journal, Design Issues [© Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press] and the definitive version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/DESI_a_00054