Graphic design is everywhere and everyday just about everyone interacts with it on some level. Since some graphic design has evolved into quick "on-the-go" design, the elements used to create a message are being ineffectively used. When designing with the graphic design elements, for the most part, there is still a majority that does not understand the reasoning or meaning in the placement of the elements. The purpose of this thesis is to teach graphic design elements to those who do not understand graphic design. A teaching tool has developed with the evolution of this thesis; this tool is wit. Wit has been chosen to stimulate the audience in a positive way about the elements of graphic design. It is the hypothesis of this thesis that wit can be used to educate, entertain and communicate the elements of graphic design for the service of solving a problem. The graphic design elements that have been chosen for this project are the very basic elements. These elements are categorized into three groups: Visual Syntax, which consists of, juxtaposition, image, line, shape, form, language, color, and contrast; Visual Semantics, which consists of message and meaning; and Pragmatics, which consists of function. Also, by grouping them according to the Semiotic Operations, the elements are use to enhance a message by either adding, subtracting, substituting or exchanging elements in a graphic design message. These elements are explored using both visual and verbal examples of graphic design. The message in these examples all deal with wit. Wit in itself is a powerful tool; it is interpreted differently by everyone. It can stimulate or evoke an emotion, and it can entertain, as well as attract attention. It can be used to persuade the audience or convey meaning in a message. Mark Twain in his Notebook from 1885 defines wit as "Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which, before their union, were not perceived to have any relation."1 This thesis uses wit in much of the same way, as an unexpected relationship between two different elements. Using psychology as a foundation, this thesis developed a theoretical explanation of how the mind interprets a message, based on the process of communication. In this instance, the message consists of wit. This process is called The Process of Wit Stages of the Mind. It outlines the instantaneous flow from the unconscious to the conscious states of the mind. It reveals how the mind unconsciously perceives the message, recognizes the message, processes the message, analyzes the message, gives meaning to the message, and then, consciously, reacts to the message. An appropriate application for this thesis is a study guide. It would be used in a classroom and would be targeted toward those individuals who do not understand the basic elements of graphic design. It defines the elements, suggests how to design with these elements in creating an unexpected message, and shows case studies on famous design pioneers in history. A goal for this study guide is to create a foundation for more effective graphic design.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Graphic design (Typography)--Study and teaching--United States; Commercial art--United States--Humor; Graphic arts--United States--Humor; American wit and humor, Pictorial

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Design (CIAS)


LeVant, Howard

Advisor/Committee Member

Lent, Tina


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: NC998.5.A1 G58 2000


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