An image idea proposes a way of looking at things. At its most artful it can change the way we see. A painting can trigger a personal emotional insight by illuminating some aspect of feeling. Creating a picture of information can facilitate a more perceptive analysis. A visual explanation gives an overview that shows relations and thus meaning. It avoids the limitations of words that separate ideas better thought of as intertwined. I was reading through definitions of philosophical categories that treated them as opposites when it really felt that they were more often intertwined or contained within another. Picturing them as sets or Venn diagrams would show these relations and not amplify distinctions that can inhibit understanding. As William James wrote, “Language works against our perception of truth.”
What we call the differences in philosophy are issues of focus. Categorical definitions, often separate ideas unnecessarily, interfering with our understanding of a bigger picture that includes them all by making us choose a “right” one from what can easily coexist. Images can hold more sophisticated ideas than words since images can contain and even reframe seeming contradictions. Visual philosophy sees ideas in relationship not in opposition.
Most important, images show the interconnections between elements of information. As the complexity of information increases more people are turning to images to communicate the meaning of the data. One example is an intriguing site that creates a three dimensional computer model to represent a company’s financial picture and shows in a glance how the complexities of budget and cash flow interact. (http://envisionfinancials.wordpress.com/) Peoples’ jobs are evolving in the front of this trend. A web designer I know began to map all the data for a corporation. An architect began to design an adaptable system for deploying a firms resources.
College students can now choose to major in Environmental Design or Social Design, a recognition of visual thinking in a larger context as a hope for solving complex
human problems. ”Metadesign” may be the thinking of the 21st century. Metadesign takes into consideration all of the processes involved in a given area, both concretely and metaphorically. Holistic solutions don’t overlook any parts of the problem. Not just about separate objects and spaces, the whole range of systems and functions are woven together, what has been compartmentalized seen as part of a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. A student in Environmental Design had been given an assignment entitled “Reconciliation” to apply to a fragmented area of the community and I found it interesting to think about what reconciliation looks like. Considering the big picture helps us find the real issues underlying multiple problems. The need for a holistic approach that visualizes solutions seems obvious now that ecological consciousness is more mainstream. A re-visioning in the way cities work could stimulate positive growth in every area. People brought together in cooperation facilitates healthy processes as opposed to divisions of areas into self-fulfilling prophesies of deterioration and isolation.
Programs like Harlem Children’s Zone and Visual Learning Systems are designing new systems for education. HCZ understands the importance of the whole life experience and education from birth. VLS uses discussion of art to stimulate the minds and creative thinking capacities improving children’s scores in all subjects.
The design of spaces, systems and processes that facilitate cooperation, discovery, and appreciation of difference focuses on how we move through the world together. Creating a better global feng shui depends on seeing the potential harmony and designing a world that enhances the flow.