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Visual communication is all around us. From billboard ads and posters to films and media, visual communication is an inescapable part of our everyday lives. To better understand the importance of visual literacy in this digital age of visual communication, we will provide expert insight into this concept, as well as concrete examples of effective visual communication.
According to Merriam-Webster, visual literacy is the ability to recognize and understand ideas conveyed through visible actions or images. From an educational institution’s standpoint, visual literacy is the ability to see, understand and, ultimately, communicate visually.
It is the ability of the learner to carefully scrutinize the visual creation–with great curiosity, skepticism and analytical skills–and understand what the intended purpose of the creation was from the standpoint of the maker. Visualize yourself visiting an art gallery exhibit. Imagine two groups of individual visitors: one group is passionate about the arts; the other is just there for the free alcohol and the opportunity to socialize. Those who are passionate about the arts would be found standing close to a piece, steadily gazing and inspecting the medium, the colors and deciphering the story behind the work of art. The other group would simply end up looking around and would be totally oblivious to the story conveyed by the exhibit.
Visual literacy has everything to do with learning and understanding a given message. It is a process of learning that generates interest, curiosity and passion over something that is hidden in the visual creation. Visual literacy speaks more of the hidden message behind the visual piece. Visual literacy is an understanding of what is not written, but what is presented using signs, symbols, icons and colors.
Do you remember how you started to communicate? How you were taught about the things around you? How you came to identify daily items around the house: animals, shapes and sizes? What aids were used by teachers to effectively facilitate learning in your early childhood education?
When infants reach the 9-month mark, they begin to recognize things, and parents oftentimes offer visual aids to help them identify what they need and communicate what they want. We offer pictures of their toys. We teach them how to identify colors by showing pictures. Similarly, as they grow older, we rely on visual aids to teach them the names of animals, places and things.
Visual literacy, otherwise known as visual skill, is the foundation of learning. Children read pictures before they master verbal skills.
Visual literacy allows individual learners to interpret art and visual media as they come into contact with them. In today’s visual Internet, visual literacy is a skill and a necessary ability to decipher what is shared online and distributed in any other form of visual media. A perfect example of this are road and safety signs. When you learn to drive, you are often given a set of local road signs and safety booklets to memorize and know by heart. Understanding these basic signs will help you greatly when travelling or driving to another place, city or country. Though road and safety signs vary in presentation, their meanings are universal. If you know how to read road signs in your local area, then you can be confident that even if you are new to a place, as long as you understand road signs and safety, you will never get lost.
Visual literacy offers a deeper connection with all kinds of texts and encourages analytical interpretations of what is represented and their hidden meanings. It is a skill that eliminates barriers to learning. See how nonverbal speakers rely on images to convey their thoughts and communicate with images. An example of people with great visual literacy skills are archaeologists, who rely on engraved drawings on caves and stones to understand how the world worked long before the modern era. Stories of ancient history made it to our books and online media distribution databases because there are highly skilled professionals who spent their life understanding visual messages.
There is undeniable evidence that learners actually visualize what they are reading to get a better understanding of what is being told in the text. It happens to each and every one of us when we read something foreign to our understanding: We paint the picture of what it is and try to connect the visuals in our head. A great example of learners visualizing what they read are doctors. While reading the procedures of their next heart surgeries, surgeons imagine the actual operations and the movements of their hands as they stitch up the patient. In preparation for tumor-removal procedures, doctors print the tumor to get a good visual of how they can safely remove it without rupturing the patient’s heart, spleen or pancreas.
Visual literacy guides consumers in their buying decisions. Having an understanding of what emotions are being evoked by a piece of visual advertising teaches consumers to be careful and skeptical in advocating product brands and company service advertisements. In another post, we covered the psychology of colors and its impact on marketing. In a two-part post, we discussed the importance of choosing the right color for visual brand design and visual branding advocacy.
Having visual literacy skills is necessary if you are a professional involved in the field of visual communication. How can you share what you learned visually if you cannot interpret visual ideas and presentation?
Visual communication is the use of any image that effectively conveys an idea. It can be a drawing, a poster, a video, an advertisement or any visual material you may find online and across social media platforms. Visual images include photo posts, viral videos, charts, infographics and any other piece of communication that utilizes signs and symbols to deliver a message. The Internet is populated with visual content. From advertisements to personal stories, everything is narrated with the use of visual media.
Visual communication is a key component in visual content marketing. Every marketer understands the value of sending the right message to consumers. Visual content is a powerful tool that has been recognized to help increase brand awareness and is effective in driving traffic to a particular brand or product website.
The ability to visually communicate ideas is a particular skill set that is in demand for both B2c and B2B marketers. In the report State of Content Marketing 2015, visual creations top the list of strategies that companies and marketers are planning to implement.
Visual communication is the preferred medium for information delivery because of its expediency and brevity. If you are a marketing professional lacking this particular skill, there’s still hope for you. There are visual content creation tools that can help you develop this particular skill.
Visme is a platform that offers resources you can use to improve your visual design skills. The digital world has made it easier for any marketing professional to do their job better. Platforms like Visme can help any individual prepare visual presentations that resemble professionally prepared visual charts or reports. It provides useful tools that can help marketers design visual content for prospective clients. If you are a professional or a startup business that doesn’t have the resources to hire a digital marketing agency to create compelling visual content, you can explore visual content creation platforms to design your Facebook posts, banners, announcements, marketing proposal presentations or infographics.
You need an extra edge in your visual content marketing efforts if you want to thrive and stand out. Visual communication is no longer about signs and symbols. Today’s visual communication is the fastest method to deliver vital information. This fast-paced digital age requires everyone to embrace the value of visual information.
You can use visual content to inspire your consumers to use your product. A great example is GO PRO’s Facebook page, which features images of death-defying stunts and activities captured with their HD cameras.
You can engage your followers and encourage them to share their photos on your page along with real-life stories, which are proven to increase engagement. Making it easy for your consumers to share their experiences shortens the distance between you and them. Meanwhile, customer service and experience are simultaneously improved.
You can use visual content to tell amazing stories about your brand and share experiences with your consumers. See how Betty Crocker created an album for customers.
There are undeniable benefits to increasing your visual content to improve your visibility online. There’s a strategy for your visual content marketing; all you need to do is learn and understand the power of visual communication.
Visit our Visual Learning Center to learn more about how you can leverage the power of visual content in your marketing strategy.