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Abhay Pratap Singh

Investigating the Syntactic Aspects of Doodling for Graphic Design

The word doodle is shrugged off as a trivial terminology that is related more to cognitive psychology than the visual arts. While there are several serious approaches in the world of art that share some of their fundamental traits with doodling and deal with the subconscious act of mark-making, the term of doodling itself is stigmatized for being amateurish. In layman terms, doodling is defined as the almost absent-minded scribbling or sketching on a surface while thinking of something else or while being involved in another activity such as being on a phone conversation, waiting for food at a restaurant, or while attending a lecture/business meeting, etc. While some of the doodles are nothing more than what one would call “scribbles”, a lot of others have a far more refined visual language that can rightly be termed as artworks in their own right.

There is little available theory on doodling in graphic design per se. There certainly is a substantial theory on drawing, gestures and their meanings and how they contribute to design in the broader sense. I always had a loosely defined hypothesis regarding doodling which is: “One of the core qualities of doodles is their dynamism. A highly developed doodle drawing contains many elements such as abstract shapes, paths, symbols, and figures. These elements are randomized across the surface yet appear unified by rhythm and an intuitive flow. Aligning these intuitive paths and shapes which are generated by doodling with type or image can be a new way to position and organize graphical elements on a surface. Hypothetically this would produce dynamic compositions with a high visual impact.”

This hypothesis positions a doodle as a potential base structure that can help with the layouting, positioning, and structuring of graphical elements such as that a doodle attains the syntactic qualities of the grid, albeit in a dynamic fashion. The thesis does not negate the importance of the tried and tested grid system but offers an alternate viewpoint with its anchoring in the theories of deconstruction and post-modernism in graphic design. 

For the image experiments, doodles were reduced to form fluid, organic grid structures which were then combined with generic texts to see if the outcome indeed results in dynamic-looking forms. The surface format chosen was that of a poster. The process of positioning meaningless elements with the sole purpose of finding a dynamic form assumes an interesting angle with the inculcation of a theme (a headline in this case). After all, the purpose of a poster as a medium of visual communications is to dispense a message. The randomized grid, along with an established theme, gives birth to various new conceptual syntaxes, rather than just the formal ones.

On the theoretical side, the thesis looks into the factors which are responsible for these new developments and looks into previously conducted research to support the findings. The ultimate aim of the thesis is to investigate and play with the potential of doodling as a new, alternate approach for conceptual plus formal development in graphic design.