Research Seminar: functionality and identity in visual communication

Professor Theo van Leeuwen argues for a two-pronged approach to multimodal analysis that combines functional design analysis and identity design analysis.

He will argue that:

  • Functional design is increasingly global, functional and homogenized, while identity design is increasingly diverse, aesthetic and oriented towards meanings and values
  • While functional design analysis relies on grammatical systems and generic conventions, identity design analysis requires a context-sensitive parametric approach and an element of creative interpretation
  • While in modernity, function superseded meaning, in postmodernity, meaning returned but as an expressive superstructure which leaves modernist functionality intact (if invisible) rather than as the source of semiosis.

These arguments will be illustrated with examples from document design, product design and architecture.

Theo van Leeuwen is Professor of multimodal communication at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, and Emeritus Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney.