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The Bliss Bibliographic Classification system

Henry E Bliss’s system of library organisation and classfication was devised in the early and middle part of the twentieth century. It operates according to distinct rules, yet is incredibly flexible because Bliss recognised that different libraries have different needs. Widely regarded as the most scholarly and best structured of the classification systems for general library use, its infinite variability also lends the Bliss system to digital applications. The system operates according to four broad underlying principles:

  1. 1
    Alternative location
    [a subject can be classified in more than one place as long as it is treated consistently]
  2. 2
    Concise notation
  3. 3
    Knowledge is organised by academic expertise
  4. 4
    Subjects move from topic to topic as they naturally relate to one another

Bliss’s structure

The sequence of subjects in the classification system was carefully worked out by Bliss, and he took many years to develop a beautifully modulated order that presented each topic in relationship with neighbouring ones.

The top level disciplines are designed to represent an evolutionary order, and were later discovered to mirror the principles of the philosophical theory of integrative levels. Each level in the order is dependent on the previous one and represents a higher state of organisation.

See below for the categories in the Bliss system. For more information on the Bliss system visit the Bliss Classification Association website.

Bliss code WFG

WFG is the code for graphic design. W is the top level Bliss code for the arts. The F signals that this is a ‘design art’ where aesthetic considerations combine with utilitarian function. The G distinguishes graphic design from other design disciplines. WFG is a nice example of 'literal mnemonics' as the G is the initial letter of graphic design.

The full listing of each top level Bliss category includes definitions of the subjects covered. WFG is defined as follows:

Graphic design

As distinguished from WJ Graphic art (graphic fine arts); this deals with artistic activities that support or complement textual material whose primary object is the communication of information, using the natural language or other visual forms of communication. It does this by imparting a highly aesthetic dimension to the characters conveying the information (including the letters of textual matter) by decoration, illustrations, etc.

This subject (which deals primarily with two-dimensional forms) developed initially in the context of printed materials and most of its vocabulary usually implies these.

For commercial art narrowly, see WFQ.

Henry E Bliss [1870–1955]
Henry E Bliss [1870–1955]

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