The War on Words: Are Visuals the New Language?


“I take pleasure from things for exactly what they are, revelling in the pure adornment of beauty for beauty’s sake. Connecting with something on a superficial level is as honest as connecting with it on an intellectual level.” – Marc Jacobs

I recently started my own tumblr and undeniably reveled in the cathartic experience of purging my musings vicariously through the work of others, re-blogging and focusing solely on things that inspired me, never bothering to upload any of my own images. A play space that is and isn’t my own, unlike this blog, I don’t have to succumb to the pressure of producing regular, original, quality content or tip-toeing around sensitivities.

The future of good websites and blogs seem to be following a similar trend; rich imagery set against a clean white backdrop emancipated from the debris of flashing side-bar banner ads and multiple fonts all over the place. Why? Besides a sleek look, I can only assume it is to give a post’s imagery the chance to be an unsolicited focal point, whatever its intention may be, whether lingered on or scrolled over, it is given fair chance in one clean sweep. That, and it just looks better.

Fashion and creativity in theory needs to be discussed, debated and taught. Some may argue that sites which are oversaturated with too many images and too little copy are dumbing down society and promoting a quick (and possibly depth-lacking) fix. While that may partially be true, I choose to vouch for the value of visuals.

Often without realising, every sight we encounter succumbs to our own subconscious semiotic analysis. Now some of us may choose not to dwell consciously on what we see but oftentimes parts of us do subconsciously long after we’ve seen what we’ve seen. In short, semiotics entail the presence of signs, symbols and developed universal codes we have embedded in our minds that cause us to interpret visuals in a certain way. In many ways existential, in many ways universal. For example, a happy child wearing white in an image may result in the overall connotation or symbol of innocence. The semiotics behind a red rose being given as a gift may be seen as a romantic act of love. The aforementioned is generally universal.

Then comes the interesting part; existential interpretation. The differing meanings we, as subjective individuals, take from what we may see, bearing in mind our upbringing, interests, education, culture, social standing, age, the things we have grown sensitive to and desensitised to. So when we do see something we perceive to be interesting, inspiring, controversial or appalling – we’re seeing it with all that we have developed ourselves to know and be. While many sites are reducing text and increasing image size and quality, we could consider imagery to be somewhat of a dominant language of the creative future as it inspires our own thoughts rather than dictating their direction. So while words spell things out, and argue to convince us what to think, one may suggest visuals teach us how to think when we notice the patterns and trends being formed over time – if we are aware of it.

Now I know this seems contradictory and don’t get me wrong, I love to write. I write here, I work as a copywriter full time, I speak aloud in unfinished and often blatantly biased essays. When I speak in person sometimes I don’t finish my sentences, or I tell and listen to three stories at once. I say stupid things not because I don’t think, but because I think too much. I write because it is the best medium I know to streamline my overactive mind. An overflow of thoughts rush forward and try and squeeze through a filtered gap and out into the world. Writing is that filter. The filter to my loud and restless mind, whether someone reads it or not. And even in writing this I’m attempting to convince you to think what I think, assuming of course that you have actually read this far.

Thus, with the notion of “seek and thou shall find” being considered, I think you will take from information – both visual and written – that which you are particularly looking for, with some influence of the content producer’s choice of included content. The visuals you choose to see, the articles you choose to read, may shape your opinions and development and the extent to what you allow them to. You are only involuntarily exposed to so much. While someone may have a reasonable point, a poorly-presented argument may sway your opinion out of pure irritation, and an image may inspire you to dress or act in a certain way. Someone can write endless contemplative articles, but no matter how strong their stance is, if their writing is atrocious, their intertextuality has left a bad impression and you don’t care enough to read, you simply won’t. Equally, you may sift through beautiful imagery and not give it a second thought, or you may sit and internalise what you’ve seen and come up with those one thousand words a picture is apparently worth, thereby actually exercising your mind as opposed to accepting someone’s argument as your opinion too. You could look at an image and see it for its photography, you may look at it and see only its fashion.You may look at it and be amazed, shocked, disgusted, inspired or indifferent.

When reading or viewing something, one of the most important things to note is how the person has framed the imagery and text, “framing” being a word journalists use to describe the presentation of any kind of media. Every type of media you will ever see will always be biased no matter how neutral it appears, because it will have been a person’s choice on what to omit or include in the information they present to the public. This could refer to the words used, the order images are placed in or the order in which a story is told. A simple upward inflection in a reporter’s voice could indicate biased enthusiasm, while foul language denotes distasteful idiocy. The source (a witness/educated person/child) also affects how seriously the information is taken. For example, if a credible source wrote an article about how designer “X” had an amazing collection at Fashion Week, and included ten beautifully captured designs, the audience would most likely believe that writer when they say the show was phenomenal. However, it would still be that writer’s choice of words and they may have chosen to omit the forty designs in the same show that were aesthetically poor. Would you have been any wiser if you didn’t seek the full story or the whole collection? Or would you only care enough to trust what the writer has said?

Through writing this I’ve come to the conclusion that if one cares enough about the principles of creativity and visuals, one will communicate it and subscribe to it in the language one knows. Or rather, you will keep trying until you know, be it visual or written. If one cares about aesthetics, one will take the time to understand them, notice patterns, and learn to love and allow unanswered visual questions to spur creativity and one’s own thoughts. You will practice producing quality aesthetic yourself, and compare yourself to your inspiration. If you care enough about the ethics of fashion, the creative future, its history and its industry you will look into it thoroughly, read it, write it, maybe incorporate it into your career. And if all you want is to find appealing visuals, a peak into your girl-crush’s world, writing that is as neutral as you are or inspiration for your next outfit, then that is all you will seek and maybe produce. From my personal standing point, as a writer/amateur photographer/stylist/blogger/person with the attention-span of a flea, I’m constantly in search of writing worth reading and inspiring visuals, and I seek to surround myself with creatives.

People appear to be writing too much that leaves me thinking “Okay, that’s nice, but was such an incredibly simple point worth such a lengthy article?”, and so, lately I’m far more inspired by the visuals because the quality is far easier to filter through at face-value. With so many having a blog or a “website” and an elaborate title that they have adorned their name with themselves, the unfortunate part is you don’t realise how terrible written content is unless you’ve wasted some time getting through a reasonable chunk of it. I therefore end up using visuals or the content producer’s credibility as my reading material filter, and judge the overall content quality. I’m not ruling out that a brilliant piece of writing can have a tacky image fronting it or no writing at all, but this is my general approach to it online. Sure, I’ll read many an article without imagery because again, it’s coming from a source that’s credible and written by those whose opinions make sense and have developed to count. But this argument aims to highlight that visual aesthetic should not be disregarded and deemed to lack intellectual depth, and a thesaurus-armed piece of writing with a dollop of emotional charge is simply not enough to inspire on its own. While this can be seen as judging a “book” by its cover, I understand that a creative who is pedantic and mindful of their words would ideally prioritise  their aesthetic and visuals too – from site design, to image choice and overall visual quality – so what they say and the overall perception may just be worthy of an intuitive, creative audience.


By sharing her personal style, fashion and beauty advice, written reflections and more, Fashion Breed is a place for women to learn, relate and connect.

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