David Machin, Lynda Polzer
The book starts with the proposition that for journalistic publications, design elements are just as much a part of the message as the written content. Content and design are not divorced from one another – in fact, Machin and Polzer make the argument that it is often the case for publications to use their established visual identity to inform the curation of the stories they publish. Not only is the meaning of journalistic writing communicated through the lens of its visual presentation – the writing itself is realised through design.
The book gives examples of common design practices through which communication is achieved – for instance, the use of tightly set block of text dominating the page in newspapers used to be seen as formal and authoritative. Though the practice of defining the tone of content through a deliberate use of visual elements is widespread and well-developed, the authors of the book claim that the conversation about these techniques is underdeveloped and overly geared towards adjective descriptions of a general feeling created by the designs. The book focuses on presenting and analysing case studies from the areas of photographic reporting, newspaper and magazine layouts and television set design in order to identify and understand how considered and deliberate uses of design tools and methods lead to specific impressions being communicated to the reader/audience.
Machin and Polzer named the analytic framework they decided to employ ‘multimodality’. This approach is focused on recognising, understanding and describing specific tools available to a designer and how different interactions of these tools lead to different outcomes. They based this framework on the linguistic theory of Michael Halliday and Barthes’ work with semiotic systems.