Category Technique

Parasignals

Today, I wanted to write a bit about the “secrets” in Speed + Time… and “secrets” in artwork generally.

In graphic design classes, communication of a message is typically broken into three components: alphasignal, parasignal, and infrasignal. In short: alphasignal is understood to be the message itself, parasignal is the way that message is being conveyed, and infrasignal is the behavior of the source of the message. (Note: If you’re interested in greater detail, read Crawford Dunn’s paper on the subject — it’s great.)

I am fascinated by strong parasignals in artwork — particularly, parasignals which reinforce (or contradict!) the alphasignal or which decode to different messages depending on the audience.

All artists include parasignals — conscious or unconscious — in the production of their work. Conscious inclusion of parasignals would seem to have two immediate benefits. First, the elevation of the creative challenge — which, ideally, would force the artist down new creative avenues. Second, the increased interest of the artwork’s audience (either in further appreciation of the message conveyed by the work or born of curiosity over the mechanism by which that message was delivered).

To provide a concrete example, I’ve created a diagram which illuminates the parasignals consciously included in Speed + Time. When looking at the diagram below, ask yourself what would happen if those elements were removed. Now that you realize their presence and know their meaning, would you consider them essential to the message conveyed in the artwork?

(My apologies if this comes across somewhat muddled — I’m low on sleep. Let me know what you think!)

(My further apologies for the awful title of the artwork referenced in this post. I’ll edit it to something more fittingly lyrical soon.)