This study comprises a broad-based consideration of contemporary graphic design. It was undertaken in response to observations and perceptions that graphic design is in a vulnerable position unless it is able to articulate and sys¬tematically clarify its role and ability to address issues of significance in the social, economic and cultural arenas. Although the importance of design for development in South Africa is acknowledged, the study is sited within the parameters of design development with a concomitant focus on the profes¬sional and theoretical dimensions of graphic design. The study has sought to contribute to the debate about the future of graphic design in South Africa by offering some perspectives on the opportunities, directions and choices avail¬able to graphic design in this country. The primary aim of the study has been to explore and demonstrate the nature and value of conceptual frameworks and interpretive strategies in graphic design within the spectrum of the developing theoretical basis of the disci¬pline. It considers graphic design as visual language in order to elucidate the fundamental thinking and guiding principles that enable the production and analysis of design solutions. It examines semiotic approaches and poststruc¬turalist deconstruction and their theoretical application to graphic design. It also looks at graphic design through the lens of visual rhetoric. Systematic analysis necessitating the intense, detailed and multidimensional examination of graphic design outcomes and visual semantics, tends to reflect an evolving but powerful resource and tool, open to flexibility in accommodating a range of objectives, and a diversity of interpretive perspectives and theoretical val¬ues. Analytical consideration reveals design meaning to be multilayered and complex, moving from universal meaning to a variety of other emphases in a network of interrelationships and contexts which include internal organisa¬tion, intertextuality, social interaction, cultural dimensions and the domains of creators, analysts and viewers. The adoption of a broad approach has allowed the nascent graphic design dis¬course to emerge and enabled several of the dominant ideas and impulses, that inform creative production and analytic interpretation, to be probed. The study identifies and elucidates some of the fundamental design dilemmas of identi¬ty, place, role and values in the contemporary world and traces the shifts from modern to postmodern thinking, sensibility and expression; to considerations of post-colonialism and the current confluence and interaction of South Africa/Western world. It reinforces perceptions of transition in design think¬ing and practice, but suggests that these are not comprehensively understood or uniformly accepted within the design arena. A number of multifaceted, interlinked and overlapping tributaries or features can be assigned to contem¬porary graphic design, allowing it to be viewed in terms of communication, context, transformation, convergence, pluralism, complexity and digital tech¬nology. These salient characteristics provided a useful means to position graphic design within the context of the challenges facing corporate organisations in South Africa. The study suggests a more inclusive, knowledge-based form of graphic design practice which presupposes an holistic understanding and use of design within the functional and cultural parameters of the corporate envi¬ronment; and as a response to the impact of both information technology and contemporary management processes. It proposes that an encompassing vision of graphic design, which accommodates broader theoretical and practi¬cal dimensions, must be encouraged in South Africa.
Thesis (DPhil (Fine Arts))--University of Pretoria, 2007.