Taking off from my last piece on semiotics, it looks like the world is warming up to visual design as more than just expression of abstract thoughts.
From the cave days of signs & symbols to the present days of elearning, visual language seems to have come full circle. Of late it is fast gaining recognition as being more persuasive for communication and learning. I have been pondering why is it so, and why so late?
Visual language requires users & viewers to get engaged mentally. Unlike most of the traditional human languages, visual language doesn’t have a structured or predefine syntax. Users have to engage with the visuals to understand the overt or underlying meaning, which contrast with the established human languages with a predefined syntax.
Over the years users of traditional human languages develop habits around tense, voice, person and gender. But with visual language even though users or designers evolves an individualistic approach to design, it still remains largely a mental process all along. Each visual expression has a very individual flavour to it. For the viewers, pieces composed in visual language are open ended statements. And I have a feeling that because of this freedom which visual language allow users, it is able to present the case in a more persuasive manner.
First on a sub-conscious level human just don’t go through a visual composition as a matter of habit. They have to connect mentally to absorb the message and which helps in internalizing the meaning & understanding. This is also where the challenge for visual language users lies; they should try to break the mould with each new visual composition. It is the ability to break the pattern & surprise which is one of the most powerful tool that a designer has. Some one has named this as “creative leap”.
Secondly on a more conscious level, visual language does not force users to comply with a set meaning & syntax and offer freedom of interpretation in a subjective way.
Thirdly visual language enable users to get a snap shot or overview of the entire composition at one go. This is quite unlike the traditional language where user needs to go through the entire composition and co-related the different statements to get a complete picture.
Looks like we are witnessing a rise of the visual culture.
Some of the proponents of the visual culture
International Visual Literacy Association
Visual Thinking School
The Big Picture