NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

Member of International Council of Design ico-D

English | فارسی

Neshan 27


Visual And Verbal Homogenization

Reudi Baur

We are living in a tragic epoch of history, where we are witnessing rapid disappearance of a prodigious number of languages, cultural characteristics and tools for transcribing thoughts. The symbols and systems of representing ancient rituals are on the brink of extinction. In brief, the richness of semiology is being threatened.

During the compilation of an encyclopedia for peace signs in a matter of years*, I came to realize how insidiously are the ancient symbols such as the ones found in rich civilizations like China on the verge of extinction, considering both the historical background and the number of contemporary speakers. This semiotic genocide is more serious in the case of minority cultures and smaller countries. In contrast with a lot of diverse cultures, these multiple symbols and rich representations in the west are to a large extent less strong in conveying notions. However, today, all the world uses western signs in various situations and occasions. This will homogenize our visual environment, but at the same time will attenuate the cultures which feed on these signs.  

This number of compiled historical and contemporary signs and symbols in the encyclopedia indicates another observation as well: the process of image production! In the present world, pervasive use of computers, the limited number of software programs employed to create and edit images and above all, the system of printing and disseminating these images itself have contributed to the huge homogeneity of visual environment. Despite the presence of so many creative graphic designers in the world, these similar programs, which lack much of a variety, connect the designers worldwide and make them use the same codes, methods and patterns. Thus, graphic designers have turned into the same old scribes who copied the same texts over and over again. Following communication consultants and marketing strategies, they produce an unbelievable amount of images and often forget to look for an equivalent for the dictated content in their own visual culture.

In brief, it can be claimed that our world, unlike what it looks like, is going to lose complexity. Reductionism and vulgarization are going to take over. Neither the speed and amount of happenings and the constant flow of information nor the complexity of modern ways of representation and new acts in plays are going to fill the void of “complexity”. I believe, in a matter of one generation, we are going to witness what Giorgio Agamben called culturocide. This problem will not be limited to verbal and written languages. Image will also undergo this bitter process of “decomplexification” which is resulted from repressing and eliminating cultural diversities. This is comparable with the ruling of a simplified version of English language in the world.

We will be able to change this course when we start to realize the present reality. In the present interconnected world, trying to change this course does not mean a return to the past at all, to the isolated societies which tried to retain an insular culture in order to preserve it. Attempting to preserve this multifariousness is important because today, we can witness hardline nationalistic movements against globalization, both in Europe and the Arab world, which I think are just as dangerous. These cultures are endangered by national isolation and xenophobia. They try to preserve their languages just like their other historical heritage and deny themselves the possibility of interacting with other societies.

This defective international/ local dialectic whose management is assumed by no one is the problem which has caused the dissemination of this smallest common denominator, this superficial lingua franca which is void of profundity.

Let us accept diversity and small cultures. Let us value differences and divergent structures. Let us realize that minorities are the ones who can make translation, transaction and encounter possible, thus producing new horizons. Let us pass by the deadly dialectic of preserving mother tongue and its relation with business-like English. And let us do the same with visual languages.

*“Impossible Encyclopedia of Peace Signs”, which compiles diverse visual expressions of peace during history and from different cultures, is the result of the research carried out by Design-To-Context and is to be published by Lars Muller Publishers in 2012.

Reudi Baur

born in 1956 in Paris, spent his childhood in France, then trained as a graphic designer with Michael Baviera in Switzerland, obtaining his diploma in graphic design in 1979 at the Schule für Gestaltung in Zurich. Having created the Bbv studio in Lyon in 1983, in 1989 he cofounded the interdisciplinary network Intégral Concept and has since directed the Intégral Ruedi Baur studios in Paris, Zurich, and  Berlin. He has taught on a regular basis since 1987.  He also teaches at the École des arts décoratifs in Paris, as well as regularly in China at the Luxun Academy in Shenjang and the Central Academy of Arts (Cafa) in Beijing, and at the Percé international school, linked with the University of Laval in Quebec, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2007. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (Agi) since 1992, he participates in many workshops and judging panels, gives regular lectures, and his works are published in various countries and presented at various exhibitions.

Design, Graphics and Environment

Majid Abbasi

> more

Iranian Contemporary Design


Ali Afsarpour

> more


Re-perceiving Urban Space Undergoing Change

Pegah Ahmadi

> more


Royal Express

Iman Raad

> more

Design Today-1

Dark Matters; Welcome to Our Universe

Kambiz Shafei

> more

Design Today-2

Space, Form, and Content/ Project Projects Studio

Behrouz Hariri

> more

Face to Face

Made in Space; An Interview with April Greiman

Majid Abbasi

> more


Bruno K. Wiese - Visual ideas

Jens Mueller

> more


Alexander Rodchenko "The future is our one and only goal"

Olga Severina

> more


In-Between Color, Sound and Space

Pouya Ahmadi

> more