Friday, October 5, 2012

Visual Items

People absorb many images without even seeing them. Illustrations for learning and communication often fall into this category. But of course there's no reason why necessarily clear images have to be lame.

Today, a set of such images for the benefit of students, with little comment.

Several examples from Our Play Together, Book 2, published by Golden Pleasure Books, London, in 1963. Objects in a two-color setting. (The value relationship of the purple to the black is problematic in spots, especially the headline.)

A detail.

 These images are simple and straightforward, but also visually knowing. They're designed.

Alas, they're also culturally essentializing, like many sources of comparable vintage. The Chinese upturned eyes are a little much. Borderline space alien.

A bag of toys, each described simply, yet fashioned into a tangle

Formally, sort of nice.

Alas, the balloon lady is pretty creepy. A possibly lobotomized Eastern European grandmother. Those droopy strings make the balloons look like jellyfish after a boob job.

Books on science and technology for young people from this period are crammed with explanatory images. The pictures are more complicated, but they still rely on fundamental shape and color relationships.

Another source, from an earlier post: the pink-field illustrations above and below are picture lotto cards, akin to a bingo card, used for collecting game pieces. The images in both cases are credited, incompletely, to one C. Clement, noted on the box cover (not shown). My friend and colleague Linda Solovic found them at a flea market... she took the box and the game pieces, I got these. The game was produced by Samuel Gabriel and Sons Company, circa 1950.

What's not to like about these things? I associate them with the open-ended learning and discovery of childhood. I remember poring over pictures in the World Book Encyclopedia and other sources (Time-Life Books: another time!); they were fascinating then, and comforting and/or amusing now.

Some objects and categories of things are better-designed and lovelier today than they were 50 years ago; others are decidedly less so. Second topic for another time.

But it is worth pausing to note how quaint and anachronistic some of these nouns now seem. A pinwheel?

Technological subjects cut in interesting ways. Old sewing machines are cleverly-conceived and quite complicated things. The increasingly hidden mechanical workings of the world have left us feeling superior (Digital technology! Yay for us!) but less adept in the face of malfunction.

I actually like making descriptive/informational pictures, when they're called for. Above, building off the pink theme: a gila monster, for the MySci project, 2005.

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