Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and
make meaning from information presented in the form
of an image. Visual literacy is based on the idea that
pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be
communicated through a process of reading.
The term “visual literacy” (VL) is credited to John
Debes, who in 1969 offered a tentative definition of the
concept: “Visual literacy refers to a group of vision
competencies a human being can develop by seeing
and at the same time having and integrating other
Why and How
We live in an increasingly visual culture.
We are surrounded by images everywhere in our
Studying visual imagery helps better understand the
complexities of their world.
Visual Literacy is based on…
Encoding (expressing their thoughts and ideas in
Decoding (translating and understanding the
meaning of visual imagery).
A lack of definition?
Because multiple disciplines such as
education, art history and criticism,
rhetoric, semiotics, philosophy,
information design, and graphic design
make use of the term visual literacy,
arriving at a common definition of visual
literacy has been contested since its
first appearance in professional
The Multimodal Perspective
Scholars stress the necessity of accepting
the co-presence of linguistic literacies and
visual literacies as interacting and interlacing
modalities which complement one another in
the meaning making process.
Visual literacy is not limited to modern mass media
and new technologies. Even though the name visual
literacy itself as a label dates to the 1960s, the
concept of reading signs and symbols is prehistoric.
Signs and Symbols
Brands and Logos
Graphic Novel And Comics
Example - An image can be used to show what an idea might
look like. The picture may be used to illustrate a concept that is
being described within a text or strengthen a point of which the
author is trying to persuade his or her audience.
Evidence - An image can be used to add new information.
The picture may be used to represent data that is being
described within a text or highlight one aspect of an argument
of which the author is trying to persuade his or her audience.
Expression - An image can be used to express a feeling or
attitude. The picture may be used to stylize information that is
being described within a text or make an ironic or emotional
comment on the point of which the author is trying to persuade
his or her audience.
Similarity and Difference
Foreground - the part of the picture that is
nearest to the viewer
Background - the scenery behind something
(usually whatever is in the foreground)
Symmetry - an exact correspondence of form on
two sides of a plane resulting in balance
Asymmetry - lack of balance or symmetry
Tone - the intensity of light and dark
Shape - the basic geometric shapes, such as
triangles, squares, and circles, that are apparent in
a visual image's composition
Motion - the illusion of motion within a visual