Design of a Communication
by Milo Clark

The design of a communication is paramount. In sound-bite seduced America, using printed words to persuade, to enlist, to entice is a function of the simple declarative sentence. Masters include Ernest Hemingway in fiction and The New Yorker's Joseph Mitchell in non-fiction. I won't reference the newsprint, advertising and public relations industries.

Adjectives and adverbs are spared. Analogy and metaphor direct, if used at all. Circumlocution is abhorred. A communication is first viewed more than read. It is looked at before being read. And, subliminally, read while being viewed. Writers are using eyes to tickle four other senses. Words read or sensed need to be heard. Unheard is unheeded. Unheeded is the end of communication. Three other senses are never mobilized.

The measure of communication is action. Maybe "reaction" is better. Success in communication comes from readers doing what you want. Doing it when you want it to happen. And using the form you indicate. Success comes from hearing your message and acting upon it as confirmation of hearing. Impressing other designers, conforming to fads or decorating walls all have their functions; none of which contribute to your cash flow.

Actions to be taken determine communication design. Printed communication is designed around the words to be used. Graphics are elements designed to stimulate reading words placed in relationship to them. Layout integrates words and graphics. To communicate effectively, the typographic arts, when employed, actually need little or no graphic enhancement. Dependence on graphics may indicate failure to understand typography; inability to integrate design with communication. Graphics, when used, must flow from word choices and be designed to illuminate the communication desired.

Rhythm, cadence, pacing are part of communication design. The words crafted are as much song as type. Like song, type is a function of its forms, its instrumentation, its arrangement—the performers. The hearing focuses on the song, the romance, the uplift captured so prosaically in type forms. Read your writing out loud to yourself and others. Listen not with your ears but with the ears of those to whom your address your design. James Joyce is nonsense in print. Molly Bloom comes alive only when her words are sounded. And, how she comes alive! Kafka read is Kafka unknown. The echoes of Prague's streets and stone passages are built into his words. The dampness and gloom come in as part of them.

Published July 01, 1996
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