Graphics in scientific communication are not just a means to elegantly convey, condense, or systematize “facts.” As any form of communication, they are bound to, or enregistered in, the discursive context of previous uses. Graphics, thus, do not only visualize information (in an iconic or symbolic way), they also contextualize (i.e., index) the practices, communities, and genres of particular fields and thereby serve as effective emblems of scholarly identity. This article elaborates on the indexical or emblematic dimension of academic graphic design. Drawing on sociolinguistic theory of social positioning and identification, it will be argued how graphic design is a disciplinary practice in the double sense of the word.
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology