Cowdung with a stick to claim it at banni

Non-verbal codes in communication

Banni Grasslands - Context as a design teacher 

This case study draws attention to visual codes and how they operate in the context of non-verbal communication. We will look at examples of non-verbal codes from Banni Grasslands, Kachchh, Gujarat. Visual codes of Banni grasslands include- marks on livestock (animals such as cows, buffaloes, sheep and goat) for the purpose of identification, decoration, and health (pointers of good and bad health as well as traditional treatments for diseases); trade codes that include marks associated with dairy business, buying and selling of animals and codes of personal identities based on class/ caste/ religion.

This case study describes how these codes have evolved over the years, and how economy, geography and technology continue to shape them. It also investigates how new codes get created, how their meanings get transferred from one generation to the next as well as how they help in identification and differentiation at the same time. This study employs methods like participant observation and semi-structured interviews to investigate codes and their meanings. The journey to understand non-verbal communication codes led to the question- where should visual communication as a disciplined focus; given the present-day socio-economic and environmental context. The case study concludes with a realization that there are several issues beyond obvious commercial applications that a visual communicator could address. Their skills can be used meaningfully to fulfil the responsibility towards society.
Design research; visual communication; codes, signs