Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Four Ways of Looking at a Hat

Reader's Digest, of all places, has an article called "Four Ways of Looking at a Hat" which is a good way to look at the difference between art, visual culture, design, and visual communication. Hats can be rare, unique and idiosyncratic - like a work of art. They can be iconic pieces of visual culture like the Stetson. Hats can be functional pieces of design like a high-tech helmet with a Helmet Mounted Display System (right). And they can be used as visual communication like the religious symbolism of the Muslim hijab.

Certain hats communicate jobs, roles or responsibilities like a fireman's helmet or a policemnan's distinctive hat. Other hats communicate membership in a cultural group like a baseball cap worn backward or sideways. Other hats are works of designers and still others are works of art.

Just about anything can reflect different ways of looking - as art, visual culture, design, or visual communication. Have students select any image (a drawing?), object (a shoe?), place (a building?), or experience (a gathering?) and see if they can find visual examples showing in some forms it is a work of art, a piece of visual culture, an example of design, or a basic form of communication. There will be some overlap but, with some effort, there are usually examples that can be found that strongly represent each of these roles. Art and Design Teachers should look at all four ways of thinking about images, objects, places and experiences as part of a basic visual education. Art is not the only role of visual education and, often, not the most relevant.

Click on the heading above to see the Reader's Digest article.

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