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Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century Paperback – Apr 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Macrovu Pr (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189263709X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892637093
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 19 x 24.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 640,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Bob Horn has brought together the depth of his years of experience in information design with a wealth of research on the history and practice of visual languages. The result is a new synthesis: a way of thinking about visual language that integrates and extends the different elements on which he draws. It may come to be, as he predicts, the starting point for a new field of study that develops the "global language for the 21st century."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Love/Hate reviews 9 Oct. 2000
By Robert Lucas - Published on
Format: Paperback
People seem to either love Bob Horn's book "Visual Language" or they hate it. Look at the reviews here on Amazon! The key questions is: Why such a polarizing? To me it means that Horn has written a paradigm-busting, pathfinding, boundary-crossing, far-out book -- one that removes our blinders from a phenomenon that is happening all around us, namely a new international, auxiliary language that is emerging. No wonder it arouses controversy.
Some of the top people in interface design, technical writing, information design and web design have written 5-star reviews for Visual Language on Amazon. They praise its exploration of a whole new territory, and like its systematic treatment of the new syntax, semantics and pragmatics of this language. And they note that Horn is not only describing a trend, but pushing the envelope a bit further.
The detractors seem to be graphic artists who are threatened by Horn's deliberately provocative use of clip art. Or they are people who don't like it that Horn has moved beyond his accomplishment in single-handedly inventing the whole field Information Mapping and structured writing. They want to keep Horn in his box. But some of the best selling books of the last decade have been written in visual language. David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work" is perhaps the most famous example.
Many designers relish the new "texture" of Horn's book -- a texture that results from the dramatic change in the ratio of images to text. Horn is saying bluntly and explicitly, "your communication in visual language has got to reflect what words do best and what images do best -- when they are working together". Horn not only expounds on that message but shows us how it will look on every page. And he explains the systematics of it.
This bothers a lot of people. And it excites even more of us.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A seminal work for the right audience 9 Aug. 2001
By Mike Tarrani - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is not a book on layout and design, so if you are in that segment you will probably not like this book. The author's intent is to develop a visual approach for conveying information. The approach itself is a combination of pictures and words structured in a format similar to a comic strip or storyboard. This approach has merit, although it breaks many layout and design rules for aesthetics. This probably accounts for the wide chasm that divides the previous reviewers.
Regardless of whether you buy into the entire approach the main value of this book lies in the education you will receive in the effective use of shapes and images to convey meaning. Prior to reading this book I used intuition, previous experience and a lot of examples when designing documents that relied heavily on graphics.
I came away from this book with the following: (1) a clear idea of how to integrate words, images and shapes to effectively communicate ideas and concepts. (2) Cogitative aspects of certain shapes and forms, singularly or in combination, as metaphors for time, speed and other qualities that you want to impart. (3) How to effectively use space in a diagram to convey information - the chapter on the vocabulary of space, including distance, placement in frames and other spatial techniques was worth the price of the book to me. (4) The ways to develop different diagrams using the same basic information served as an idea catalog for me and has greatly influenced my approach to information visualization.
An additional benefit I personally gained from this book is that it provided me with a solid foundation that makes Edward Tufte's beautifully produced and seminal books more understandable. Before reading this book I struggled with Tufte's Envisioning Information, but did not comprehend many of the subtleties. Armed with the knowledge gained from Visual Language I revisited Tufte's book and saw its beauty and genius. This has added the dimension of aesthetics to the way I produce graphics.
So, while this book breaks a plethora of rules in page layout and design, and the examples are not visually appealing, it does give an approach for effectively conveying information. If you want to understand how to effectively integrate words, images and shapes to convey highly technical concepts or information you will find some excellent ideas in this book, as well as gain an understanding of how they all fit together on a more fundamental level. I give it five stars for the profound influence it has had on my thinking and recommend it to those of us who are not graphic artists.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A uniquely useful and challenging learning adventure 21 Aug. 1999
By Robert Jacobson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Visual language, combining text and images, has been around for a long time -- but only in the last two decades, with the rise of desktop publishing and design, has it become commonly accessible. Horn, a pioneer in the field (and inventor of Information Mapping), wants us to acknowledge the power inherent in this melange.
To communicate his case, Horn uses visual language. This makes the book twice as interesting: you, the reader, learn about visual language as you experience it. This book is full of discoveries and demonstrations. Begin it on a lazy weekend and you may not want to stop until you're done.
It's challenging that Horn uses clipart throughout, to make the point that one need not be an artist to write visual language. That may be so; but clipart, despite the ingenuity of its authors, has limitations, especially conceptual banality. Horn is a master; others of us might have more difficulty treating complex issues with visual language based on clipart.
No matter. One can easily envision a more subtle and sublime form of visual communication using more eloquent graphics. VISUAL LANGUAGE remains fun and informative from beginning to end. This book is both a text and a how-to. Read and apply it well!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Food for thought but not an easy read 9 Nov. 2001
By RA Botha - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I first saw this book I was a bit surprised. My interest in the book came from a personal tendency to convey messages through graphical/drawing means. When I saw this book I expected a book full of descriptions of techniques that could be used to convey messages, etc. Big was my surprise when I opened the book and it was mainly "pictures". Don't get me wrong there is writing as well, but it is mainly used within the context of the graphics on the pages - a completely different ratio than usual.
At first I struggled to read the book as it appeared somewhat unstructured, but as time commenced I started to realize that this was exactly what I expected. The only difference is the author does (sort of) what he preaches. The book is in my opinion a "fair" example of the use of visual language. What better way to learn something that from good examples? Ok, not all examples are equally good, but there are certainly enough good ones.
I find that now, even after I systematically worked through the book, I continuously open it at random spots to ponder some of the ideas and concepts portrayed.
If you buy this book DON'T EXPECT AN EASY READ - it takes careful study to get the value out of the book (from there the only 3 stars), but that value at the end of it worth the effort. Be prepared to be amazed at the richness of visual language. However, it does also get the message across that using "visual language" is far from arbitrary but requires a lot of work and many,many careful considerations.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The missing piece of Information Mapping® 28 Aug. 2001
By Linda Zarate - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a trained and active Information Mapping® practitioner I have come to respect Mr. Horn's genius. This book cements my respect and builds upon his impressive accomplishments in the field of verbal (and now visual) communications. The approach in the book, like Information Mapping® itself, takes some getting used to. Moreover, it can produce some visually ugly pages. In fact, I almost discarded the book based on some of the examples within, but discovered that these eyesores actually did communicate concepts and facts. What makes this book important is the equal importance placed on words, images and shapes, and the recipe for integrating them into a highly visual communications medium. It also provided me with some deep insights about the cognitive aspects of shapes, colors and symbols. If you are looking for a book on page layout and design look elsewhere. If you're an Information Mapping® practitioner, this book will nicely dovetail with the principles of information chunking and integrating graphics that are inherent in that method. I have gained much from this book and have already used the techniques to good effect in a few recent projects. It earns 5 stars in my opinion.
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