October 7, 2012

Looking at Non-Pictorial Icons

In Mcloud's "The Vocabulary of Comics" I found that I disagreed (unless I missed his point) with his description of non-pictorial icons. McCloud says that in "non pictorial icons, meaning is fixed and absolute. Their appearance doesn't affect their meaning because they represent invisible ideas' (McCloud 28). The picture example used was that of the letter M and a peace sign. I want to focus on letters in general. McCloud says that this is a non-pictorial example. How can anything not be a "pictorial example," especially letters. Everything is an image. Words, letters, pictures, photographs. Everything is some kind of visual that we look at. Back to the letter example though. Think about sports teams. Often fans show their support for their team by donning team apparel. Separately, the letters F,S, and U may not represent anything, but together they create "FSU" and which might bring to mind a representation of Tallahassee, our football team, or school spirit. How then can letters not be pictorial icons? Letters create words which create meaning or transmit an idea. These ideas are not "invisible ideas."

In the next box on page 28, McCloud then says that "In pictures however, meaning is fluid and variable according to appearance. They differ from" real-life" appearance to varying degrees."  Isn't a picture a pictorial icon? What's the difference between a picture, icon, pictorial, or an image? Why do we need all these different words for the concept of image? I think that "meaning" will always be fluid and variable according to appearance because everything we view is something that is seen uniquely through one's own lens or eyes. I guess an example of this would be someone who was colour-blind or had some type of ocular dysfunction that made them see colors in different shades than the officially recognized color. I might see my version of "red" differently from everybody else and not even know it.

It might be in another chapter of McClould's book, but I wonder how McCloud would define typography. Especially typography that creates an entirely new image like this one.


KatieA said...

I never thought about typography relating to what McCloud was saying in his comic but now that you mention it I think it is an interesting point. Typography can represent many things and could easily achieve a similar effect as the ideas that the words are representing. There is different kinds of typography that can make a script look old or modern, typed-out or handwritten. I think McCloud would definitely address typography as an important aspect in how ideas and representations are visually seen. I also looked at the image you attached and it brings up some good questions. It clearly is a drawing of an umbrella but it is interesting that it is filled with letters. The letters also do not seem to make out any visual words so I wonder what their purpose is. Maybe a metaphor for us always being surround by letters and words? I don't know but it is very interesting!

Jen said...

I think your argument is fair, that all images are in fact pictures. Except, in another class I'm in we talk about the difference between symbols, signs and pictures. All of which represent something different. I think letters of the alphabet are would be considered a sign, they don't really mean anything until put together. The letter G doesn't mean anything, it's just the association we apply to it. Whether that be a last name, a first name, a color, city, etc. But it doesn't actually mean anything, and applied meaning between people is different. I think McCloud knows the variation between what is a symbol, picture or sign. And due to that, and his ideas with the letters shows that those interpreted meanings are in fact placed by human experience and emotions, they are in fact representative of invisible ideas.

Anonymous said...

I think that what he was attempting to say with that is that letters are rather concrete. The letter 'M' in the English language has very few meanings. It is an MMM sound and generally speaking that is about it. When you start adding other things to it, the meaning changes, but the 'm' stays the same, for example, M&M's. We all know that those 5 characters together form the name of a tasty candy, but it is still M and M. The letters stay the same, it is our own experience that allows us to make sense of the symbol "M&M's," whereas a person who knows English, but has never been exposed to M&M's or university acronyms for that matter, would not be able to relate in the same way. This would cause the acronym to not be pictoral as it is not universally seen, the letter 'M,' however, does have a universal meaning and therefore is pictoral.

Jessica Weaver said...

I am not sure if it is just me but I have a hard time seeing letters as pictures or even pictorial icons. When I think of a picture, my mind has a set and specific definition that it holds to when discussing visual images. In my mind, a letter is not included in the definition of a picture. Understanding that a letter is a visual tool we use in order to convey our point however the world surrounding us is a visual one, does that make everything around us a picture or a pictorial icon? Is there a line drawing a difference between the two? What about an image and a picture? Together FSU forms an image of the school both visually and mentally however I would place it underneath the definition of a picture. I would, more or less, define a letter as a symbol. A symbol that we use in order to form words which in turn (arguably) create meaning. I think the FSU example offers an interesting question of the difference between and picture and an image. I would agree that it makes and image however I am still faulty on the idea of the letters being or creating a picture.

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