What illustrations of the sign language of the deaf tell us about process diagrams

Date of this Version

January 2006

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Mitchell, M. (2006) What illustrations of the sign language of the deaf tell us about process diagrams. Paper presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association 2006 Conference, Adelaide.

To obtain a copy of this conference paper please contact the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association.
Copyright ©ANZCA & University of Adelaide, 2006.


As rich visual languages, sign languages of the deaf have great potential to provide theoretical insight into other forms of visual communication. Further, it is not just the usage of sign language that is worth researching, but also its visual illustration. As Bailey and Dolby (2002) have noted, the illustration of sign language is generally considered to be challenging, and designers have given much thought into making such illustrations clear and concise. This paper looks particularly at how techniques used in comics-style illustrations of sign language are also used in process diagrams. Examples of diagrams used in the discussion include dance steps, instructions for making paper aeroplanes, and explanations of some animal communication and cellular processes. The comparison between illustrations of sign language and process diagrams is most appropriate since both types of illustration represent movement in three-dimensional space. Visual variables of importance include object shapes, backgrounds, positions, orientations, paths of movement, speed of movement, duplication of movement, and reference points. The paper should provide deeper understanding for scientific and technical communicators and teachers of how to construct clearer diagrams for a variety of purposes. Keywords: sign language illustration, diagrams

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