Naming the System

I’ve been thinking lately about the differences between “visual language” and “comics”, and why no one has really made the separation between the two before. It struck me that our culture has never really identified there being a system of graphic communication.

We name the process of creating something visually (the act of drawing). We acknowledge various methods for creating things visually (sketching, painting, collage, etc). We also name the social context for visual creation (comics, art). However, our culture has never acknowledged the express system of visual communication by name.

This is different from spoken language, where we immediately distinguish English as a system that is different from Spanish or Mandarin. Because most drawings are iconic (resemble what they mean), I’m guessing that diversity between visual systems is unacknowledged. At best, we distinguish between “drawing style” – like superhero style, or manga style. However, these are largely just considered an attribute of the social context – not of alternate graphic systems (I think these are partially entwined).

So, in lieu of acknowleding the system itself, is it any wonder that society keeps attaching it to certain social contexts to establish its identity?


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