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From Page Design to the Pedagogy of Flow: the Belgian Case

Alexia de Visscher

Translated from the French
by Aviva Cashmira Kakar

The contemporary Belgian scene is a unique one which unites graphic design, the free-culture movement,11 See Anthony Masure, Alexandre Saint-Jevin, “Recherche et culture libre : approche critique de la science à un million de dollars,” Réel-Virtuel, 6, Les normes du numérique, (December 2018), and the concept of transmission. Graphic designer and teacher Alexia de Visscher provides a subjective view of the practices and networks in the region and their influence on pedagogical practice in art schools. To support her arguments, she makes use of documentation on workshops, labs, and courses that tell a tale of a practice on the margins, where everything seems possible.

The interest in issues surrounding reading online in art schools is relatively recent and closely linked to the democratization of the Web in the 2000s. Paper books having remained the most valid and “legitimate” means of publication, the teaching of graphic design has long been subservient to the printed publication. From the very first appearance of graphical user interfaces (in the 1980s), the pedagogy of design was orientated towards the “digitally assisted”—the passage to the screen was then considered an intermediate phase (or “inter-Media”) in the process towards the creation of a print work with a result in keeping with the original image (i.e. WYSIWYG, or “what you see is what you get”). At the time, most computer courses were dissociated from courses in artistic creation and graphic design students had no idea of the computational procedures associated with the interfaces with which they were working, nor of their relationship to the machine. This tenacious belief in the printed work as the ultimate aim also tended to widen the gap between these two worlds, both of which already were perceived as somewhat impenetrable.

The development of Web technologies and other platforms for its consultation (tablets, smartphones) engendered increasingly accessible and widely distributed forms of onscreen reading. As reading habits began changing, the necessity of providing content which was both available for consultation onscreen (in general, more rapid methods such as distant reading) and on paper (close reading) became increasingly evident. In the field of editorial design, in contact with free-culture, experiments and interactions appear, upending the paradigm of the screen as a space for simulation.22 Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995). Thenceforth, it was with a screen (design)—and no longer onscreen (representation)—that graphic and semantic inscriptions were made, creating models for new editorial production processes whose main features are simultaneity and synchronicity. “Hybrid” publications (multimedia) began to appear, shattering the unending prophecies about the death of the book:33 “This Will Destroy That, the Book will Destroy the Edifice:” Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, 1482, Book V, (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1917). Published online by, (2000),

Publishing or hybrid publication is a term that encompasses forms of publication that coexist in several formats—printed, oral, [digital], etc.—where the content can exist simultaneously in several different and complementary forms, bringing into play the question of what exactly is a “publication.”44 Loraine Furter, “Trouble dans le genre—Pédagogie alternative de l’édition hybride,”, April 2018,

Belgian Origins

The little country of Belgium constitutes a sort of cultural interzone which brings together designers concerned with to creative and political freedom, who feel that the free-culture movement provi…