As one of the few, Nancy Skolos and Thomas Wedell attempted to unravel the magic between pictures and letters in their book ‘Type, Image Message’ (Rockport Publishers, 2006). Though many combinations of permutations are possible, they separated the following four criteria: separation, fusion, fragmentation and inversion.
Separation is the method when type and image operate independently to reinforce or contradict the message, to invite multiple meanings or to create a series.
Text and image retain a clear level of autonomy but the designer allows the text to react with, against, or independently from the image, further mediated by additional elements.
Formally this can be done in several ways of which the most common is by layering, when the type is superimposed on the image. But the type can also set the stage for the image or to dvivide the picture plane into type spaces and image spaces.
The method to blend type and image to form a unity to entangle two or more things that are not neccesarily related is called fusion.
This tactic creates a strong association between text and image or strengthens this relation when it is already there.
The designer can make use of formal qualities like an optical effect, a shared surface or texture, a motion or gesture or the use of a calculated visual metaphor.
When type and image trade places or roles the method is called inversion. Type is portrayed as part of an image, or an image is built from type.
This approach is used to reveal a potential or unrealized connection among the elements, to create harmony and intergration or to invent fictional narratives between words and images.
The designer physically photographs or renders the type, uses the letters to create frames for the images or lets the letterforms appear within the picture plane as building blocks.
Fragmentation is the method when type and image disturb or disrupt each other. Designs in this category are often ‘indexical’ and have an unsettled nature.
There are many applications for this strategy. Type and image are not quite synchronized (as is the case with fusion), but still work together to emphasize the friction between two or more ideas.
The designer can animate and energize a message, create a state of flux or is able to construct a layered message by using irregularities, displacement, interruption or exaggeration.