Chris Glynn- Illustrating Complex Ideas

This was quite a lengthy lecture on how we are all illustrators. In our minds we illustrate things, when we talk we illustrate by gesticulating with our hands when talking etc. Illustrating is an act of communication and a transformation process. This lecture address complexity, and the question of where does one start in illustrating such a complex world, with so many ideas. Chris Glynn came up with what he called The Angles of Clarity which are basically aids and key actions in helping us illustrate complex things.

The first aid was personification; This is a figure intended to represent an abstract quality. So one can take a complex idea and personify it to illustrate it in a simpler manner, and visa versa. Glynn showed us an example of his workshop with people working in management in the NHS. They unpicked the different metaphors in the management tree, ending up with a landscape of different meanings which I really liked. They had illustrations like the graveyard of lost projects, the messy reality where all the meeting happened, and then the ship of order where all there administration when on. I love the imagination involved in this big illustration.


He went on to say whilst there are these useful tools we are up against things like distractions, calamity, the fact that images are not enough and there is a gap between images and so on. So what one must do is takes everything, all the characters, all the objects and filter it down in to the 3 most important things and then filter it again until you have the single most important.

Following personification can the rhetoric; persuading people visually. This is what illustration is all about; pointing at things and saying they exist! Next came Precision. As Henri Matisse said “drawing is putting an line around a idea”. This quote demonstrates just how precise we can be. After precision came elaboration. Illustration elaborates on thing. It explains things further than just a narrow description or a statement of fact. Its interesting to see that we seem to naturally value more elaborate illustrations, with the complex being more respected.

Analogy followed this. This is where we say something is “like this” or “looks like that”. I thought Walter Benjamin’s quote was quite interesting; “No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.” suggesting that everything has a larger meaning, its not what we initially think it is, its intended for  larger purpose. Next was Perspective; we looked at some very detailed drawings. Glynn argued that whilst they we very impressive, what were they actually illustrating? whats behind all the detail? whats the message? Can’t a similar message be achieved with more simplicity? I guess this is sort of what I am exploring in my own work; is decoration actually necessary? Can an object be just as effective if it is stripped right back to the bare material and the simple, functional forms?

Moving on to the final points, Structure explored how we occupy space and looked at some complex architectural drawings. This is an example of where complexion can speak; some of the drawing were extremely complex but conveyed their meaning of the space beautifully. Then there is Sequence; using numbers to aid simplification. So for example 12 way to do this… 5 steps to become… etc. Then the aid of Exploding, looking at exploded diagrams, taking a complex object and splitting it up into its individual segments. Finally, there was Magnification, where looking in further and zooming into objects simplifies them and makes them easier understand. We finished on the four ways of illustrating things; Complex ideas with a simple illustration, simple ideas and simple illustration, simple idea and a complex illustration and complex idea with complex illustration.

5 6

I found this lecture a bit jumbled, and found it quite hard to follow. I also felt it went on a little bit. I think I got the gist of what Chris Glynn was saying, and I did find some part interesting to learn about, and I could relate some of it back to my practice, but I didn’t find it a massively interested in the topic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s