Using Type as a Visual Tool

Reading through Johanna Drucker’s piece “Diagrammatic Writing” and then reading through Jennifer Egan’s work “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” I am intrigued by the way type can be used as a visual tool. There are ways that the format of a piece can affect how the reader understands the writing, and there are ways to use text that can indicate simultaneous or sequential thoughts, as in the speech bubbles Egan used.

Font and font size can affect the mood of a piece, while the very location of words on a page can subtly add meaning to the words, in ways that streamline the writing in much the way that images can. If a picture “paints a thousand words” things like the unbalanced seesaws from Egan’s work show which events were more weighty, without the trouble of spelling out things like, usually Dad is unhappy after work. You can also pick up more of the mood of the author by the way things are laid out, and how the different comments affect the different characters.

In Drucker’s work, you can see how the different styles of formats add or subtract from the meaning of the words, or just confuse the reader. I have noticed for myself, that if a work is heavily footnoted I find myself distracted by reading the footnotes during my initial read of the text. I am also frustrated and distracted when I read something someone else has highlighted or underlined in. If I have highlighted (which I rarely do) or underlined (more often) I read the passage more thoughtfully, to try to decide what about that text appealed to me at one point. Sometimes, when a passage is particularly meaningful to me, I will make a note in the margin about why, and even date my comment. While some people like reading things that other people have highlighted, I just find it distracting and almost never agree with the previous reader about whether the passage should have been highlighted.

I think one of the reasons for my distraction by the visual cues is that I am a very visual learner, and I am strongly affected by visual cues. As a preference, I will choose to sit near the front of classrooms, and well away from anything that moves in a room, such as boom cameras or highly animated people (at church, generally).

With all that in mind, I think that I would like to construct a story more like Egan’s than Drucker’s, where I can use text placement to signify different subtexts. I think Egan’s work would have been fun to see in a hypertext format, where you click on a specific bubble to read the sub-bubbles, rather than see everything laid out at once. However, I think it would also be helpful to use different aspects that Drucker brought up, such as font style and size, as well as the different kinds of speech bubbles and shapes. I am also intrigued by the idea of using WordArt to play with the shape and size of words in my story to add value to the words

Leave a Reply