Spring 2004

Do lots of pictures create meaning?

Visual Power

I News; II Sex; III Business.
Concept and editing: Mieke Gerritzen, Mylene van Noort and Koert van Mensvoort. BIS Publishers, Price: €10 each or €25 for all three.

Visual Power Memory Game
Concept by Mieke Gerritzen
BIS Publishers. Price: €15

The ‘Visual Power’ series from Amsterdam is based around some really daft and dated ideas, namely: lots of pictures create meaning; lots of bold text, boxes, lines weights and colours mean communication; and, aphoristic, obscurantist text equals analysis. Though all these methods have had their successes – in the 1970s – in this case it seems that the creators know many languages but are fluent in none. In two issues the same clichéd image of Bin Laden is used with different glib slogans: this is lazy design. Perhaps this is the result of a publication paid for by a cultural foundation and not us.

The depressing aspect of ‘Visual Power’ is the spectacle of adults who think they’re Bart but actually they’re Milhouse – they should get out more. While those outside have come to expect image design to be a northern-hemisphere world view objectified and trivialised by narcissistic white male graduates, what we now get is the objectification of text. Every curve and crevice is there for our gaze but not our understanding. What Art and Commerce did for sex and commodities designers have done for the word – and writers just lie back and love it.

In the ‘Visual Power’ books, the writers think they have something significant to say and hope that the liberal application of design will give their leaden words wings. – But what can you do with, ‘In reacting upon actuality we in fact produce reality.’

As for the game: ‘Every card selects a subject from the encyclopedic image bank that we carry in our heads.’