Translations – Interpretations in the Visual Language Jungle

Symposium organized by the Design Department, University of Applied Sciences Mainz                

Wednesday 22nd October 2003, 9 a.m. - ca. 7 p.m. approx.

Holzstraße 36, Top floor

Registration: translations(at)



Ruedi Baur, intégral ruedi baur / Paris / HGB Leipzig,

Henri Ritzen, Studio Dumbar / Rotterdam,

Lars Müller, Lars Müller Publishers / Baden (Schweiz),

Markus Weisbeck, surface / Frankfurt a. M.,

Prof. Dr. Christian Doelker, Universität Zürich / Zürich,

Natasa Drakula / Berlin,

Tom Unverzagt, Matthias Gromes und Thomas Ries / 2id, Leipzig, 

Peter Bilak, dot dot dot / Den Haag


From one language into another, from one form into another, from one medium into another, well knowing that there can't be a word-to-word translation. The subject of translation is a core  task of

the graphic designer. No matter whether she / he is working here or there, commands this language or that - in the end the question always has to be how we translate contents, messages, intentions or emotions into form or medium. We translate - or decipher -images, signs or characters which represent reality, metaphers, clichés, symbols, icons etc. Every communication is subject to several interpretations, confronting the designer with the manipulation of perception.

What is our perception and/or that of the individual observer? How does local culture or language influence perception? Is it possible, nevertheless, to reach a global understanding, overcoming geographic and linguistic barriers and maybe even continents? Doesn't it get exciting precisely at the point where we find different and surprising visual solutions for one and the same problem?

Is there something within a global graphic culture of design that can happily be called “typical Dutch” or “typical Swiss”? Although our reading primers give us exact labels, is there really such a clear-cut relationship between things, words and pictures? Dictionaries help when it comes to translating a text, but how do we translate pictures which have a meaning that the pictorial dictionary can't show? Dictionaries for pictures? Will pictograms take over as a universal medium of understanding? A picture says more than a thousand words – but how do we decode pictures? Can there be something like a reliable grammar for pictures?

Concerning these and other questions we will introduce you to the positions and the visual language of european designers and theorists.


The talks will be in German and English.

As a framework for this event there will be an exhibition of students' work.

A publication on the subject is planned in 2004.

A more detailed schedule will be mailed two days prior to the event.

A map of how to find us is in the internet under

Everybody with an interest in this subject is welcome, admission free.

University of Applied Sciences Mainz

Design Department

Prof. Dr. Isabel Naegele

Peter Glaab