Picture, the core element of visual art. It plays an important role in every field of visual communication design. As known to all, effective picture is not only image, but also message. This communication of image is even more effective than by words. Someone said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yes, this is a good measure for evaluating a good picture within a communication. Usually, it called graphic language in area of design. Graphic language like word, it comes from creative ideas. It can be presented by all kinds of visual style. Even it is not a picture as we expected, but a broad stroke of colour, a word or something else that formsan image in the given work. Graphic language is one of the most important languages of communication in posters, books, packages, identity programmes and time-based multimedia. No matter how developed the media technology in the future, it would be a everlasting subject for research.Effective graphic language can reinforce the message or move the communication along. This is the reason of its existence and development.
The diversity of aesthetics between Chinese and Western
Many different characteristics existed inChinese and Western poster graphic language. Obviously, the reason of difference are partly relevant to their respective traditional culture. It is meaningless to look on the phenomenon of art regardlessits background culture. So firstly, we should understand the basic characteristicsof Chinese and Western art in traditional position.
On Chinese aesthetics, the most notable characteristic is emphasizing a sense of underlying harmony, especially in Chinese painting. Taoism is one of the main religions in China, it offers to combine the opposites and balance each other. Chinese aesthetics was influenced deeply byTaoism. It was Taoist theory that things brought into contact with each other, or arranged together, influenced each other.(Philip Rawson, Loaszlo Legeza,1973) Its symbol Yin-Yang, composed by mutual black and white.
It means the physical world is whole of inseparable differences, every thing exists with every thing else. There exists no Yang without Yin in it, nor Yin without Yang.(Philip Rawson, Loaszlo Legeza,1973) The objects represented in a painting will havetheir proportions of Yang and Yin carefullycombined and harmonized.(Philip Rawson,Loaszlo Legeza,1973) For example, mountainand water, heaven and earth, light and dark, dry and wet. In landscape, we can find these factors composed a spectacular and eternalharmonious world. As far as modern poster is concerned, communication is its core mission. Under the background of internationalization, for fulfilling its duty, Chinese poster designers studied a lot of notions and methods from Western design. However, Chinese modern poster was still influenced by Chinese traditional aesthetics in some extent. Many Chinese posters kept this aesthetics character of landscape in their images. Every factor comprises a twofold aspect visible-invisible. Namely Yang-Yin. As the famous saying: A Yin, a Yang this the Tao!
Different from Chinese philosophy of art, western artists often separate their consciousness (The Self) from their environment (The Natural World) in traditional paintings. They tried to seek true world in their art expression. We can find this reality in those masterpieces from Classicalism to Impressionism. As early as period of Revival of Learning, those celebrated art masters had reached a excellent level to control nature. They expressed the truth in their works by perfect skills of drawing, exact knowledge of anatomy and scientific theory of perspective. In 1860s, impressionist painters were fascinated by the relationship between light and colour. They painted free brushstrokes in pure pigment to express the reality of light and colour. Impressionism controlled the reality of art in this way. Compared with other eras, the 20th century was developed in a big way in art area with the progressing of technology. All kinds of art genre came into being. As a result, the art notion has also radically changed, it emphasized mentality and ideology of artists more and more rather than their ability of expressing the external world. In the field of modern design, the aim that bring art and design into the domain of daily life was offered by Bauhaus. Modern poster was demanded to convey message effectively and serve the society and people. Hence the art form has become more international. Both Chinese and Western artists have experimented with new visual language to express notions or convey message.
The different characteristics of contemporary graphic language in Chinese and Western posters
Poster designs deliver a message to the public through effective visual forms. With the trend of internationalization, there are still some differences existing in visual style ofChinese and Western posters for meeting different demands. Here follows a summary of some general characteristics below.
1.Harmonious and Contrastive
Comparing with western posters, Chinese posters have harmonious characteristic in their graphic language. It is not to say these posters have no contrasting factors. Contrarily, Chinese poster designers regard contrast very much,but theyemphasizebalancingthe opposite things and reaching final holistic harmony. Chinese poster graphics are influenced by traditional aesthetics more or less. For example, in Taoism, Yin, Yang live together as a whole in Taoism, Zhong Yong (Middle of the Road) of Confucianism and so on. These factors influenced Chinese posters today. Many posters embodied this principle of Balancing Reciprocity. Alan Chan and Peter Lo of Hong Kong ever designed a pair of poster about Chinesehandwriting. The graphics is a inkstone in shape of the symbol of Tai Ji (Yin-Yang).Each poster has half. They showed words and landscape respectively. This pair of poster are compact, generous and harmonize the opposites.
Different from Chinese poster, Western poster graphic language takes on the characteristic of contrast generally. It mainly showed in aspects of colour, shape and layout. Basically, Western poster convey to people the sense of reality or embodiment. This is partly due to Western traditional aesthetics; on the other hand, the movements of modern art and design also made great effect on Western poster styles. Today we are in the information era, graphic designers have to catch the eye of audience by effective graphic languages as quickly as possible. As a contemporary poster designer, if he/she fails to attract audiences by his/her images in a few seconds, then the piece of communication may fail. Therefore, many designers pursue visual shock. A poster is generally put up in public place and seen over long distances. Obviously, intense contrast is one of the best methods to make poster more noticeable. For example, the poster of appealing to Switzerland to join the European Union. This poster expressed the subject accurately without redundant words. More than half of Swiss national flag is covered by the flag of European Union. The two flags have same symbol---cross,they compare with each other and enforce the subject. Compact form and contrasting colours made this poster possess powerful visual appeal.
2.Pacific and dynamic
It was said that Chinese aesthetics emphasizes a sense of underlying harmony, and it made effect on Chinese poster graphic language. So, it is no wonder that Chinese poster is more pacific in its graphic language than Western. In Chinese aesthetics, dynamic and pacific elementse xist together in a art work. This underlying rule also accords with traditional Taoism. Generally, Chinese graphic designers seek dynamic elements from the reposeful surroundings, then harmonize them by balanced atmosphere. But it is not absolute, many Chinese designers have developed new graphic languages with their own styles in different ways. However, the traditional aesthetics influenced the ideology of contemporary designers inevitably and brought effect on their works. Most Chinese poster graphic languages still keep this character of pacific. Hong Kong designer Kan Tai-Keung designed four posters as a group to express the subject of Chinese words. These works possess vivid contrast of dynamic and pacific elements. The strokes in each poster are Chinese words, they mean water, wind, cloud and mountain respectively. These words are dynamic elements and the stationery are pacific elements. All of dynamic elements were controlled perfectly by pacific frames. Then the posters unfold a calm atmosphere with poetic theme.
Contrary to Chinese posters, many Western posters are more dynamic in their graphic languages. Designers arrange every component element of poster and make them exert each action to attract public attention, they are bold to use all kinds of picture component element in unique way. The diverse specialities of point, thread, surface and colour were realized and presented in their works. We can feel different characteristics of these elements from Western dynamic posters. In the poster of theatre designed by Jon Simonsen, The main body is a dancing girl. Her shape formed the frame of picture. All of the words were written by hand and arranged with her track of motion. The words and the figure balanced the unstable layout. This dynamic poster offers us a musical association. In another poster of Jazz Concert,(designed by Niklaus Troxler) two different colours threads complected together to express the rhythm of Jazz. The incompact words intensified the musical rhythm. The style of this poster is relaxed, active and romantic.
3.Implicit and explicit
Five thousand years Chinese civilization had made great effect on ideology of Chinese people. Chinese traditional aesthetics is harmonious, comprehensive and implicit. Sometimes it even can decide the way of seeing. Chinese graphic designers should accept that and create a appropriate graphic language to convey message. Chinese people(especially old people) are accustomed to express or accept an idea in an implicit way. In Chinese posters, many graphic languages possess implicit characteristic. Symbolization and metaphor are familiar techniques applied to posters. It is similar to other art sort in China. Author ever designed a political poster about against dividing China. The parted peanut filled the picture and implied the concept of compatriot. The text is a question: Why are we looked so alike?It intensified the subject of One China. Another poster (designed by Andrew Pogson of Hong Kong)adopted a clip to express the subject of AIDS. The client is a consultative organization of defending AIDS. It convey relevant message by method of metaphor.
Contrary to Chinese poster graphic language, Western poster are more explicit in the style of expression. To attract public eye and arouse their interest, Western graphic designers attempted all kinds of method. Strengthening visual stimulation and conveying explicit message in a short time is the main trend of Western poster graphic language. Besides using vivid colours, strong dark and light contrast or innovative layout, they often express subjects by adopting intimacy of others, event of sex, accident or humor, problem of society or polity and so on. Furthermore, some designers used weird or impossible images as their graphic language. We can say Western graphic language relates to more aspects of the actual life, it is more realistic than Chinese graphic language. Therefore,theWestern poster have more explicit characteristicin their graphic languages. Mike Sands, Bob Pedder, and Philip Rhoades designed a social poster, designers adopted aim tool as the brand of car, and with words: Your car is a lethal weapon.
Audiences can understand its mean clearly: Drive Carefully!
In general, the characteristic of Chinese poster graphic language is introverted and Western is extroverted. These differences are due to the effect of respective traditional and contemporary culture. In the background of internationalization, the communication of Chinese and Western graphic designers become more frequent, they are influencing and changing each other. As regards graphic designers of today, they should not pursue Internationalism blindly or show seeming Nationality on purpose. After all, poster graphic language is for spreading message to the public, no matter it is Chinese or Western. Designers should focus on their target group and create effective graphic language for communicating with them. This is the most important job in poster design.
According to the results of comparison,analysis and investigation, the effective graphic language for communication has five characteristics:
1. Powerful Function of Communication
Graphiclanguage should has good ability to attract public attention as soon as possible by its colours,words,layout or images.It was determined by function of poster. In other word, it should be noticeable.
Poster must aim at its target group to convey message. Different people have different understanding about same picture.Designer must think about the factors of age, region, religion and custom. It is necessary to arrange appropriate graphic language to cater for different people.
3. Exact Expression
Designers must sure that their graphic language can express exactly the subject ofposter and not be misunderstand. So, poster graphic language should be typical, reasonable and meaningful. It can appeal to the emotional side of the audience and impress on them.
Innovation is the spirit of design. Goodposter graphic language is unique, and always make audience see something in a way they do not normally see it.
5. Unification of Nationality and Internationalism
Nationality and Internationalism are not incompatible in posters. They usually exist together in a good poster. In other word, good poster is a cross-cultural poster, it keeps its native art charm at the same time of achieving internationalism for the goal of communication. It is very important to modern poster, no matter for its aesthetics or function.
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