The Landscape, 1966
For the School of Visual Arts
Information gets interesting when it’s first announced to you. A fact about a subject is interesting if you didn’t know that fact and someone makes it available to you. After a second iteration, you might continue this interest except knowing you’ve heard it before, and now that interest becomes more solidified. By the time you reach your third iteration of the idea, you’re at the point of boredom where you say, “I’ve already heard this several times, and it’s no longer amusing or surprising to me. Consequently I’m not sure I have to pay attention to it.”
We depend on cliches and repetition to establish context for learning. If you’ve never heard something before, you have to make a vigorous attempt to understand something, which requires attentiveness. And the secret of communication is how you generate attentiveness in others. You can do it certainly the first time somebody hears something. If it’s only partially understandable you can take it to the next step of being fully understandable. But if there’s no understanding of something, it’s incomprehensible. That’s why you need cliches. You need things that form the basis of your future understanding. You have to know how to use a cliche and modify it so it retains its interest.
In this case, it’s an example of repetition producing a difference. You take a single image, a rising sun, and then you repeat it and it’s a different kind of rising sun. You repeat it again, and suddenly you have a panorama and the panorama is made out of elements you’ve seen before but never combined in this way. After all, in terms of what graphic designers do, combining existing things is most of your work. Most of your work is not work that you’ve originated but that you’ve assembled.