In making totalities

Designing image is an issue related to identity or more precisely about identification, which can be understood as the transformation that takes place when someone or something assumes an image. This act of assuming images is always dynamic, because it is constantly bridging social images to personal ones, enabling human beings or entities to define themselves.

People and entities are trying to structure themselves as totalities, as something coherent and solid. Thus, identification can be understood as the embodiment of images with object discourses, something belonging mainly to the commercial dimension, or the visual embodiment of ideological discourses, something belonging to institutional and political ones. In addition, those people, organizations, companies or objects need images to perform the dynamic process of leading their structuring of totalities to create their individualization. Something based on our need to connect and understand our relationship with everything that surrounds us.

Why does this happen? An anthropological answer would be that nothing socially exists until it is represented, while representation might well be part of the resources that make any social bond alive, making visible and tangible any membership or relationship.

Making dreams

Designed images can also be thought of as a kind of dream that someone made to achieve something, and this something is to make someone dream in some way.

Someone that is trying to condition our desires and the way of constructing realities of those who dream through these images. Therefore, the designed image acts as a screen or support that sustains an orthopaedic external experience of someone else. In this way, this dream or these designs mediate between us and reality.

Making beauty

A designer is able to influence a spectator by connecting his or her sensory worlds. In this way, we can observe that beauty is expressed by the two tools that both poetry and psychology value: metonymy and metaphor. Metonymy, as the briefing of what is most important in something that comprises it all, integrating a referent that by deploying its meaning involves all that it contains. Or the metaphor, as the senses’ game between what something means and something else that it will be able to mean; changing the sense of things, mobilizing meanings, playing with the senses, imagining realities and possibilities, interpreting scenes, creating hopes and desires; giving those desires directions and form, teaching to desire, awakening or recreating feelings in our bodies. In other words, generating meaning, attraction, seduction and enjoyment. That is, providing a formula to which designs can function as objects of desire, filling in the empty places opened up by the formal symbolic structure. In other words, designs, as Barthes wrote in his book “A Lover’s Discourse”, “show me whom to desire” (Barthes, 1990: 136).


That representation, that design which contains identity, must contain something so valuable that it will speak in the name of someone or something; it must transmit something that differentiates values and customizes its messenger. One of this “somethings” is information. Because those images are also communicating complex information in a rapid and simple way through a silent discourse. Then, the visual representation immediately shoots the association chain that will catalogue anything under the cultural parameters possessed by the spectator, determining the scene where this thing acts and defines its attributes and contexts.

Likewise, designed images form creative paths from where to find new opportunities. Yet, design is also the finding and learning. That is to say, it results in roads that are built for the one who makes the design, for their entourage, for a supposed receptor of the identity message as well as for the designer, all of them contributing to find or to lose the social meeting of sense.

Making differentiation

A visual identity is no more than a stroke, a beam of features that differentiate someone from other identities, from other marks in the universe of marks. A mark produces a cut of what one thing is and what it is not, always leaving something aside to avoid mixing the entire possible universe. This is so because in that grey world, assuming a color as one’s own allows for life recognition.

Accordingly, we can also think that any identity is always positional, because it is placing something in relation to something that is not, like cold to warm or big in relation to small. That is because “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a King”.

In design, from the very act of showing something, everything that is shown will be evaluated in relation to what is expected to be seen. Let’s take graphology as an example; it usually has as a parameter the comparison of some formal recognizable writing as the handwriting that is taught at school, which is the teacher’s handwriting on the blackboard. Thus, comparing it with that handwriting, the one of the person who is being analyzed will be differentiated by what is different from the handwriting of the idealized teacher. The attributes or defining features of this writer will emerge from the comparison being made, showing, consequently, the information of who is analyzed. In a similar process, we can think that designed images set differences with given or expected forms.

Designing power

Moreover, we can think that the created or found differences that catalogue an identity imply the result of a struggle between associations with surrounding matters. That is to say, between potential definitions that will always revolve around a given issue, where the victorious one will fix the concept.

Thus, the world of design can be evaluated as something that struggles to achieve an issue definition. Then, in the act of designing, of creating fantasy worlds we can understand image design as an action that is performed over the sense of things. This new found sense would affect not also the way something is represented in the frame of an image, but also who or what remains outside the frame, because the new image will try to impose its own view by choosing particular aspects, moments, ways of representing, and by leaving other things outside.

© Sebastian Guerrini, 2009