vitruvian manikin

vizLang is a visual language research project that investigates the grammatical structure of visual narrative. The concept for vizLang grew out of primary research conducted on workPlay. Research of note in this area ncludes the work of Yuri Engelhardt and Neil Cohn(see brief descriptions below). My work differs in its approach. One of the key problems related to research in the subject is the unlimited breadth of variation found in examples of visual language. Sure, they can be categorized, but conducting research with a media that has no recognized standards becomes problematic. How does one compare? How does one judge? is there any benchmark from which to compare or judge? Another issue is that all the research appears to take an approach common in art history - find examples, categorize them, analyze them and deconstruct them with the intent of revealing their underlying structure.

My approach has been constructive, as opposed to deconstructive. It simply sets the goal of constructing a visual language, and by doing so learning what it is that makes a visual language tick. Part of this approach requires that the language be, as near as is humanly possible, free from any 'style'. A naked language that time and use will clothe. With a visual language devoid of the presence of the artist it is possible to conduct near scientific research that will perhaps reveal the essential structures of visual language. Here, I don't mean to infer its grammar, which I think can over time be mapped even though it seems apparent that only a few people with knowledge of linguistics will every appreciate its value. Rather I refer to its narrative structure - that which shapes the story and that which can be readily appreciated by anyone with moderate visual literacy.

Yuri Engelhardt has a PhD from the dept. of Cognitive Psychology at the
University of Amsterdam. In his dissertation ‘The Language of Graphics’
(J. von Engelhardt, 2002) Engelhardt addresses issues of visual grammar,
syntax and many other aspects of language. It is a thorough study that
draws on a broad range of research and influences. It also appears to be
well grounded in its practical application.

Neil Cohn is a student of Ray Jackendoff, an American linguist. Cohn has
developed a number of linguistic theories that describe the grammatical
structures of various aspects of pictorial and textual narrative, in
particular, comics. Straddling the comics and academic cultures, Cohn
strives to bring clarity to the hotly debated subject of ‘visual language’.
In a series of columns for, Cohn writes ‘on a theory that
sequential images can actually be called a language -- a visual language --
which emerges along with text in comics’ and comments on such
topics as framing, visual poetry, and closure.