These readings felt like a continuation of the study of style I got from Advanced Writing last semester, though put much more succinctly and pointfully than anything we did there. The study of the style of a piece, where style means how a piece was placed on the page in relation to its font, its diagrams and images, and the idea that all these things belonged to certain choices and genres of writing was not a new idea.
What was new was that the Wysocki actually talked about what some of these choices mean. For example, where last semester I learned simply that typefaces mattered depending on the type of text (header or passage) and the discipline in which the piece was from, I didn’t learn what specifically determined the header and passage typefaces. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that fancier fonts did not belong as passage-text, but I certainly didn’t know that consciously, or was able to put words to the styles of typeface and what kinds of text they were used for. This study, along with hierarchy of text (like, which comes on top: bold, caps, italics, etc.?) I think are really important for writers to know, especially the ones who self-publish.
Where I work at the Exponent, we have a layout person to do this for us and I know that the same exists for other newspapers and book publishing companies, but were I ever to self-publish (like, for example, this blog), I would need to know how to set up documents for myself.
One portion of the Wysocki essay that I was somewhat confused by was the analysis of “the page or screen itself” (127). I don’t know that I followed her very well: is this an analysis of the media form, or the viewing mode? Are we analyzing the piece in the context that it belongs to a magazine, or that it actually is in a magazine (as opposed to, say, the same article being published online). Thus, is it an analysis of the media form, or the piece in relation to screens?
The article by Bernhardt felt less useful. The only part I pulled from it that was interesting to me was the laws of gestalt — pragnanz (law of equilibrium), good continuation, and the laws of closure and similarity. Pragnanz was the most obvious of them, the idea that items on a page should be balanced. The next two, continuation and closure, were more cause-and-effect than two separate laws, as closure was the result of continuation being absent. The final law, the law of similarity, was the most delightfully new, but not worldshaking, information presented in the gestalt section.
These things are all things that I think we who have grown up in the internet era have known subconsciously to some effect (though whether or not we chose to use them is a separate thing entirely), and it is in their revealing and naming of truths, and not the presentation of new ideas, that I’m most fascinated by.
I had the fortune of reading this with a graphic design major across the table, who found that us studying text placement and meaning, in her words, “very important.” The value of what graphic designers (and text layout designers) know and use in their day-to-day is something that us writers can take more advantage of, which I think was the main emphasis of (having us read) these articles.
Finally, all of this, as it seems to always, connected back to the idea of audience. Not only must we as writers consider the audience when writing the actual words of our piece, but also when placing it online and putting it adjacent to images and figures. The intention moves and is split, now, between the words and the visuals, which, I guess, was the hidden point of these articles, that these visuals should be no less carefully wrought than the words surrounding them.
(images from http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html)