HOME   |  



Visual communication

Visual communication self-portraitsIt's been a year since I last taught one of my favorite classes, Intro to Visual Communication. I love the class because for most students it's their first sometimes tentative dip into the pool of thinking about how vision, intention and effort combine to make communication.

All of us with the gift of sight are consumers of visual communication: we see and process images every moment of our waking lives. We react positively or negatively to a message scrawled on a piece of paper, to a gesture or facial expression of a co-worker, or to a brightly-colored box on a supermarket shelf. But most of us don't give a lot of thought to why we react as we do.

That's where this class comes in. In our weekly meetings we look at ads, signs, clothes, packages, cars, and each other. We talk about the hows and whys of shape, position, color, and much more in all sort of visual communication. Most students at some point during the semester have that "Aha!" moment. You can see their face light up when they "get it."

What they get is that all visual communication has been planned—sometimes well, sometimes poorly—to get a particular message across to a specific group of people. Mom, buy this box of cereal, your kids will love it.

Now you try it

It's a short step from realizing that what we see has been deliberately planned for a specific purpose to understanding that we can do the same. We can use the principles and guidelines of visual communication to get our own message across to others. And in fact we do it all the time, but without much understanding of how the game is played. With knowledge comes power. Pretty fun stuff, actually.

A favorite class assignment is the color self-portrait. Each student writes a list of their personal characteristics, chooses shapes and colors that seem right for them, and combines all this sinto a composition that expresses their individual personality. The results are always fun, interesting and occasionally stunning. At the top of the page you see some of the dozens of examples I've collected over the years.


Top of page   |  



Cuyahoga to Colorado


2007 April-December

2008 January-December

2009 January-December

2010 January-June

Video icon Video  Audio Audio