3rd Edition

Reading Images The Grammar of Visual Design

By Gunther Kress, Theo van Leeuwen Copyright 2021
    310 Pages 98 Color & 137 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    310 Pages 98 Color & 137 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    310 Pages 98 Color & 137 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This third edition of the landmark textbook Reading Images builds on its reputation as the first systematic and comprehensive account of the grammar of visual design. Drawing on an enormous range of examples from children's drawings to textbook illustrations, photo-journalism to fine art, as well as three-dimensional forms such as sculpture and toys, the authors examine the ways in which images communicate meaning.

    Features of this fully updated third edition include:

    • new material on diagrams and data visualization
    • a new approach to the theory of 'modality'
    • a discussion of how images and their uses have changed since the first edition
    • examples from a wide range of digital media including websites, social media, I-phone interfaces and computer games
    • ideas on the future of visual communication.

    Reading Images presents a detailed outline of the 'grammar' of visual design and provides the reader with an invaluable 'tool-kit' for reading images in their contemporary multimodal settings. A must for students and scholars of communication, linguistics, design studies, media studies and the arts.

    List of Figures




    Introduction: the grammar of visual design


    1 The semiotic landscape: language and visual communication


    2. Narrative representations: designing signs of social action


    3. Conceptual representations: designing social constructs


    4. Representation and interaction: designing the position of the viewer


    5 Modality and validity: designing models of reality


    6. The meaning of composition


    7. Materiality and meaning


    8. The third dimension






    Gunther Kress was Professor of English and Head of the School of Culture, Language and Communication at the UCL Institute of Education, UK. His many ground-breaking publications include Language as Ideology (with Bob Hodge); Social Semiotics (with Bob Hodge); Early Spelling; Learning to Write; Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication and Multimodality, Learning and Communication (with Jeff Bezemer).

    Theo van Leeuwen is currently Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Southern Denmark and Honorary Professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia. His many influential publications include Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication (with Gunther Kress); Speech, Music, Sound; Introducing Social Semiotics and Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis.

    'Reading Images has taught us how to look at and interpret images made over thousands of years. In this masterfully revised and expanded edition, Kress and van Leeuwen are doing it again, bringing us right back to the digital age. Their social semiotic theory has just become even more appealing and authoritative.'

    Adam Jaworski, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


    'If images have gradually become central in communication, we have to discuss ways to read them. This book is not about rules, or right vs wrong; instead, it provides us the opportunity to reflect on images and processes of meaning-making. That is why this book is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in visual communication.' 

    Clarice Gualberto, UFMG, Brazil


    Praise for the first edition:

    'Reading Images is the most important book in visual communication since Jacques Bertin's Semiology of Information Graphics. It is both thorough and thought-provoking; a remarkable breakthrough.'

    Kevin G. Barnhurst, Syracuse University, USA