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Hello Human: A History of Visual Communication

Michael Horsham


A kaleidoscopic journey tracing the methods and means of visual communication from the cave paintings of the earliest humans to the ‘photograph’ of a black hole in deep space

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Since the dawn of humanity, we have never stopped making images and inventing channels for visual communication. From the earliest paintings on cave walls to Instagram influencers today, technology may keep changing, but our need to reach one another, to move one another, to persuade, inform and entertain, has never been so vital.

Hello Human traverses the entire landscape of our diverse, expansive and yet familiar means of visual communication. From the use of the human hand as a symbol, the power and use of gestures and the genesis of the printed book, to the movement between dimensions of reality and the digital realm, pixilation, optics and the understanding of light, Horsham takes his readers on a journey full of unexpected twists and turns, laying out a temporal narrative in the form of an intricate map of objects, events and people tied together by a common purpose – to communicate.

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC (with jacket)

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 232 pp

Illustrations: 119

Publication date: 15 September 2022

ISBN: 9780500023884

Contents List


Part One: Gesture
A big hand for gesture
This is a big subject!
Where technology and gesture meet
Letters as symbols of power
Ink, pen and parchment
Lime x geometry = the rose window
Geometry and beauty
Workmanship, risk and character
Character-building activities
Playing with the page
Metal machines and movement
Shorthand for emotion
Gesture, the hand and contemporary communication
Thumbs up: a gesture for now

Part Two: Mechanisation, Machines and Messages
Scribal, tribal, Bible
Libraries gave us power
Towards the modern, via the old
Back to lime, back to lithography
The shape of water
Words and images, continued
News and technology
Terminology and technology: a deeper dive
The mechanized mastery of light (and chemicals)
Harvesting the crop
Colour and tech
Size matters

Part Three: The Third and Fourth Dimensions
Towards the representation of the real
How to make things look real
Optics and the processes of reproduction
Orthographics, modernity and representation
From reality to abstraction
Saul and Elaine Bass and modern movement
The other kind of modern movement
We need to talk about Charles (-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris)
Reorienting the purpose of visual communication
The contemporary reliance on the surreal
Technology in the service of the surreal
Artwork, not works of art
More 3-D than 3-D
Time-based media
Mastery of the pixel

Part Four: The Digital World
Amazing tales of information storage and retrieval
Secret channels that everyone knows
Break the Internet®
I am an individual; we are a community
Finding and making the tools for individual expression
Meme, me me, MAGA, gaga
Education, education, education

Part Five: Nothing is Real
Nothing is real – or is it?
Feelings, nothing more than feelings
Living with Brautigan’s prediction
Keeping it real

About the Author

Michael Horsham began working with the acclaimed design collective Tomato in 1994 after training as a design and cultural historian. He has written extensively on architecture and design for a number of publications including the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times, as well as working with the BBC. Michael is a multidisciplinary creative and design educator and image- and music-making are key to his practice.

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