LESSON 1Visual Literacy TOPICS COVEREDObjective of Visual Communication Skills , Visual Literacy OBJECTIVESThis lesson will give you an overview of visual communication skills. This knowledgewill be indispensable in whichever field of media you may choose to work in. It willteach you the importance of observation and is an interactive session where you arerequired to participate fully. What do you understand by visual communication? Howimportant do you think it is in everyday life? (From your morning toothpaste, to the latenight movie..you are surrounded by images,graphics, visuals throughout your life…)Visual Communication SkillsRationale:“If the invention of movable type created a mandate for universal verbal literacy, surely theinvention of the camera and all its collateral and continually developing forms makes theachievement of universal visual literacy an educational necessity long overdue. Film, television,visual computers are modern extensions of the designing and making that has historically been anatural capability of all human beings and now seems to have been isolated from humanexperience.”
Intent of Course:To open up a broader knowledge of some of the essential characteristics of that intelligence, thiscourse proposes to examine the basic visual elements,principles, strategies and options of thevisual techniques, the psychological and physiological implications of creative composition, andthe range of media and formats that can be appropriately categorized under the heading of visualarts and communication. This process is the beginning of a rational investigation and analysisdesigned to expand the under-standing and utilization of visual expression. Even if you don’tintend to be an art director, typographer, photojournalist, creative director, stylist or designer, ifyou work in journalism or communications it is likely you’ll be making decisions (or workingwith those who make decisions) involving visual communication. At the very least, thisinformation should prove useful to you as a consumer of visual messages and communication.Visual communication serves a purpose greater than decoration. It is an important tool foreffective communication. The organization of information on the screen can make differencebetween a message users and that leaves users feeling puzzled or overwhelmed.Even the best application functionality can suffer and be underused if the visual presentationdoes not communicate it well. We choose what we read and how we think about information byits appearance and organisation. We read a screen in the same way we read other forms ofinformation. The eye is always attracted to coloured elements before black and white elements,to isolated elements before elements in group, and to graphics before text. We even read text byscanning the shapes of groups of letters.Visual literacy is the ability to see, to understand, and ultimately to think, create, andcommunicate graphically. Generally speaking, the visually literate viewer looks at an imagecarefully, critically, and with an eye for the intentions of the image’s creator. Those skills can beapplied equally to any type of image: photographs, paintings and drawings, graphic art(including everything from political cartoons to comic books to illustrations in children’s books),films, maps, and various kinds of charts and graphs. All convey information and ideas, andvisual literacy allows the viewer to gather the information and ideas contained in an image, placethem in context, and determine whether they are valid.
Like traditional literacy, visual literacy encompasses more than one level of skill. The first levelin reading is simply decoding words and sentences, but reading comprehension is equally (if notmore) important. That understanding requires broad vocabulary, experience in a particularcontent area, and critical thought, and teachers have various approaches and strategies to helpstudents build contextual understanding of what they read.The first level of visual literacy, too, is simple knowledge: basic identification of the subject orelements in a photograph, work of art, or graphic. The skills necessary to identify details ofimages are included in many disciplines; for example, careful observation is essential toscientific inquiry. But while accurate observation is important, understanding what we see andcomprehending visual relationships are at least as important. These higher-level visual literacyskills require critical thinking, and they are essential to a student’s success in any content area inwhich information is conveyed through visual formats such as charts and maps. They are alsobeneficial to students attempting to make sense of the barrage of images they may face in textsand Web resources.Visual literacy skills are already employed in a variety of disciplines. Observation, as we’venoted, is integral to science. Critique, useful in considering what should be included in an essayin Language Arts, is also a part of examining a visual image. Deconstruction, employed inmathematical problem solving, is used with images to crop and evaluate elements and how theyrelate to the whole. Discerning point of view or bias is important in analyzing advertisements andworks of art.Specific visual formats require specific approaches to visual understanding. Informationcontained in various types of images, to analyze that information, and to use those types ofimages to build their visual communication skills.Visuals with Messages attempts to explore several questions. Since the widespread use ofGutenberg’s printing press, there has always been the cultural assumption that information is bestcommunicated through written formats. But since the invention of the computer and desktoppublishing, the role of visual messages in the communication process is expanding.Much of the information in the book will be new to you. Such a predicament is not your faultbecause you have been raised to consider words mainly as the most important form of humancommunication. This book is an attempt, as many others have tried, to even up the score betweenwords and images. It is important to understand, however, that an emphasis on visual messagesfor this course does NOT mean that words are considered less important than images.The most powerful, meaningful and culturally important messages are those that combinewords and pictures in equally respectful ways.Visual Communication is an exploration into the idea that memorable visual messages with texthave the greatest power to inform, educate and persuade an individual.