The primary aim of this project was to look at the Internet from an
alternative viewpoint in order to select core visual tools of it and create a
physical manifestation or representation of them. The questions I have aimed to
answer in this project are mainly connected to tools of visual communication:
what are the core tools, what forms of them are used more widely and why? Furthermore,
I also aimed to analyse the aesthetics of visual tools, especially how they fit
in the digital space and why it is necessary to maintain compatibility and
intercommunication between them.
While researching digital visual communication and visual culture, I
have established that the key tools of visual communication on the Internet are
colours, fonts, and languages.
For a physical manifestation, I have created two sets of objects that
form a correlated exposition.
For colours and languages, I have made a total of eight 25 by
25-centimeter coloured squares, each with a word placed in the middle.
Squares are coloured starting with the most widely used colour on the
Internet – grey, and proceeding in descending order. Each square has the name
of its colour in the middle. Names of colours are written in a different
language for each square. Starting with the English language as the first one,
based number of Internet users by language, and proceeding in the same
descending order as the colours.
To represent fonts that are most widely used on the Internet, I have
created several models using 3D modelling software. A total of three models
went into print. I have used a 3D printer to make the models out of plastic. I
have chosen 3D printing as it allows to recreate digital models with maximum
precision, which is crucial while working with fonts as some differences
between fonts are very subtle.
All fonts are represented with a
capital letter “A”, in three different arrangements. My aim was to
avoid attaching any additional meaning or references to models, therefore, I
have chosen the first letter of the alphabet. Capital “A” also works
very well for demonstrating differences between fonts. I have also made a plain
white stand for each model.
Both sets of objects were presented together (Image 1). Squares were
mounted on the wall, in a line with even gaps between them, and models
presented on white stands below the squares.
The aim was to focus all attention on squares and models, therefore,
squares were mounted on a white background and models presented on plain white
Research into colours, languages, fonts and the Internet as a social
space served as a basis for this project. However, I have used some of the
existing practice as visual references. Referenced artists include widely
acknowledged world artists such as Piet Mondrian and Barbara Kruger, as well as
less known practitioners like Boy & Erik Stappaerts. All referenced artist
share a fascination with either the use solid colours or typography, or both.
My project fits alongside the above-mentioned artists’ works and shares
certain similarities with them. The use of solid colours within geometrical
figures can be linked to Mondrian’s “Composition” series of works
(Image 2), while they way all my colours are presented together refers to Boy
& Erik Stappaerts’ “Conflict Paintings” (Image 3), as the colours
I have presented do not exactly fit in together visually.
(Image 2, left) (Image 3, right)
Finally, the way I have used simplistic white typography in the middle
of each square directly correlates to Barbara Kruger’s established style of
typography within her collages (Image 4). Moreover, Kruger also shares an
interest in common and widely used fonts, as the main typefaces she uses in her
works are Helvetica Ultra Condensed and Futura Bold Oblique.
Key ideas for this project have been based on and backed up by multiple
research projects completed by academics as well as industry professionals. The
choice, as well as order of colours, is based on a research project carried out
by Paul Hebert, a graphic designer and web developer. Hebert’s research is based
on a PHP script he wrote to analyse the ten most popular sites and record all
the colours used in the sites’ home pages and style sheets. Data taken into
account does not include colours used in images, only CSS and HTML colour
codes. The selection of top ten websites is based on a rating by Alexa.com that
maintains a list of the most visited sites on the internet.
The selection and order of most widely used fonts on the Internet is
based on yet another code based research by a software engineer Chuan Ji. The
author wrote a Python program that analyses the front page of the 100,000 most
popular websites. Again, according to Alexa’s top sites list.
Finally, order as well as the number of internet users by language, are
based on an industry-oriented statistics study from “Number of Internet
Users by Language”, by Miniwatts Marketing Group. It is important to
differentiate and point out that the order of languages is based on the number
of internet users by language and not on the language of contents on the Internet.
The three areas I have explored are the core tools of visual
communication. “Visual communication is communication through a visual aid
and is described as the conveyance of ideas and information in forms that can
be read or looked upon. Visual communication in part or whole relies on
vision” (Sless, 1981).
While this project only looks at the use of visual communication on the
Internet, it is definitely not exclusive to the Internet or even digital in
general. “Primarily presented or expressed with two-dimensional images, it
includes signs, typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration, industrial
design, advertising, animation colour and electronic resources. It also
explores the idea that a visual message” (Smith, 2005).
The main purpose of visual communication tools is to make the
information or content as accessible as possible and make the interaction
process intuitive. “Visual communication is carried out through visual
aids. The evaluation of a good visual communication design is mainly based on
measuring comprehension by the audience” (Frascara, 2004).
Due to developing technology, tools of visual communication can be used
by both industry professionals such as web designers, illustrators, and
editors, as well as any other internet users who run a personal blog, created a
website themselves or use an existing platform to share their ideas or
advertise and sell products or services. For example, David Jury states that
“Digitization opened up typography to new generations of previously
unrelated designers and lay users, and David Jury, head of graphic design at
Colchester Institute in England, states that ‘typography is now something
everybody does.'” (Jury, 2006).
Compatible and intercommunicating tools are necessary for the Internet
to function as a global network used by millions of users simultaneously. Aside
from bringing accessibility, tools of visual communication are used to give
content or information the desired aesthetic value. The whole visual culture is
based on aesthetics of one form or another. “The field’s versatility stems
from the range of objects contained under the term “visual culture”,
which aggregates “visual events in which information, meaning or pleasure
is sought by the consumer in an interface with visual technology”. The
term “visual technology” refers any media designed for purposes of
perception or with the potential to augment our visual
All web designers and developers aim to present the content in a
visually pleasing way in order to increase engagement and traffic. By
increasing traffic, the website becomes easier to find within search engines,
which increases engagement. More engagement means more views, sales or any
other actions that the owner of the website is after.
The visual aesthetic is one of the key elements that differentiate Web
1.0 from Web 2.0. The old Web 1.0 was mostly read-only and was not designed for
user interaction, but rather for relaying information about large companies and
their services. Therefore, it was not necessary to promote and encourage
interactivity using elaborate web design. The Web 2.0, created by Darcy DiNucci
in 1999 and popularized in the early 2000s, was meant for sharing
user-generated content and was focused on common users and communities, rather
As the number of common users grew, designers and developers began to
analyze what colours and fonts are best suited for certain types of content.
For example, colours blue and grey, as well as Helvetica typeface proved to be
best suited for corporate environment as they associate with stability and
As the everyday use of the Internet became more widely spread, large
corporations such as Microsoft, Google or Apple gathered more data regarding
user’s preferences towards colours, fonts, and the perception of data in
general. Therefore, most widely used colours and typefaces became proprietary.
Teams of media effects experts were assembled in order to select those colours
and fonts. Elizabeth Perse states that media effects researchers study
“how to control, enhance, or mitigate the impact of the mass media on
individuals and society”. (Perse and Lambe, 2001). Additionally, Annie
Lang pointed out that media effects researchers study “what types of
content, in what type of medium, affect which people, in what situations.”
As a result, substantial collections of typefaces came pre-installed on
Windows and Apple machines. Certain colours became associated with web giants
such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, therefore, other companies started using
similar pallets for their visual tools, because they were proven to work.
The final presentation of all pieces has successfully shown a physical
manifestation of visual communication tools. The use of various forms and
techniques helps with looking at tools that we are used to seeing in a certain
way or within a certain environment from a different angle. It has become clear
that it is crucial to consider the aesthetics while working with tools of
visual communication. Otherwise, tools may lose their visual value and will not
be able to serve their purpose.
The main issue that accrued after presenting and assessing the final
piece, is that this project covers a very broad topic and lacks precision. I
should have focused either on the theoretical side and backed it up with
precise facts, or I could take it in a
purely aesthetic direction, not connected to statistics or other data.
From this point onwards, this project can be taken further into either
research-based or a more artistic, design and aesthetics-based directions. The
aesthetic side interests me more, so I am more likely to develop it further in
that direction. More ways of presenting can be developed and scale can be
increased significantly in order to enhance the visual impact.