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Posts Tagged ‘Ways of Seeing’

Ways of Seeing — the take away

In Design Theory on March 24, 2010 at 2:12 am

In the book Ways of Seeing, John Berger took his readers through the history of visual art, from classic paintings to modern advertisements. Combining written and pictorial essays, Berger discussed the artists’ or designers’ intentions behind their work, and the meanings of the paintings and ads to the audience. Early in the book, he discussed how the meanings of paintings change with time because culture and values are different. However, through the paintings, we can get a glimpse of what life was like during those times. He also discussed how paintings can be interpreted in all different directions, especially when they are presented without caption or when parts of the paintings are taken out of context.

In chapters three to five of the book, the author discussed how owners of oil paintings to show off their material possessions, including women. He presented the idea by displaying a large number of paintings with nude women. He talked about how women were historically viewed as objects, and, therefore, they viewed themselves as objects as well. This statement seems to be as accurate today as it was in ancient time. The difference is that, historically, women exposed themselves to succumb to the superiority of men; now, on the other hand, they do is as a voluntary act to seduce the opposite sex.

Toward the latter part of the book, Berger switched his focus to modern advertisements. In chapter seven, he explored billboards, print ads and window displays, and compared them to oil paintings. What he found was that designers of today employ the same methods that famous painters did — they design their work to depict material possessions and paint fantasy worlds. These fantasy worlds create desires and convince the audience that the product featured will enhance their dissatisfied lives once they buy it. This method has worked marvelously in our world of commerce. It created enormous wealth for a selected few. However, it has also destroyed nature.

The focus of today’s society is constantly changing, and graphic designers have great influence in what the focus may be. It is the graphic design community’s responsibility to steer the public’s focus onto the appropriate subjects, such as environment conservation. For those of us who live in the world of over-abundance, it is time to dedicate our energy and resources to help protect the delicate nature, truly create a better world.