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As time passes, technological advances shape how we consume information. A few decades ago, it was mostly newspapers when we got our news - today, your phone pings you with breaking news almost as soon as the event has occurred. And while these two may seem worlds apart to you today, both use visual elements to help communicate better. From a poster printed in the 70s to a meme that was designed yesterday, it all comes under the umbrella of wanting to communicate with the masses through a visual medium. For a business or public figure, visual communication is extremely important to spark a connection with your consumer base and keep building your relationship with them.
Visual communication is a means to communicate with the help of visual aids, be it photographs, graphics, videos, writing, animation or, often, a combination of these. Most of us even use it in our personal lives regularly. For example, when you respond with a grinning emoji to your best friend’s message, you’re using that visual element to communicate your response. When they see your reply, it’s not just the emoticon they see but a picture of you with that expression on your face forms in their head. The applications are practically endless when we look at how you can use them in your professional lives - from internal company memos to communications with clients and audiences.
When it comes to visual communication - using it effectively is the key. Visual aids can be used in a subtle way or in a blaring manner, and they can both be effective if they appeal to the particular audience you’re catering to. And not everyone gets it right; many brands have retracted their advertisements because the interpretation of the audience ended up being different from what was intended. Similarly, when it’s regarding internal communications, incorrect or vague graphics in a presentation can leave any team of professionals confused.
Even a lack of visuals in different forms of communication can spell trouble as people may not feel engaged enough to pay attention to the message you’re trying to get across. That’s why visual elements like statistical infographics are so commonly used to convey or summarize data in presentations as well as textbooks.
Visual communication can be best put to use in all parts of your life and work, especially in social media posts, presentations, websites and advertising.
Visual communication, also called Viscom colloquially, is all around us. Following are a few common types that you may come across in your daily lives:
1. Animation: Animation is the use of design tools to add movement to figures in images. This can be done on a short scale, like adding special effects in a presentation or on a large scale, like creating cartoons for a series of videos. In earlier days, this was done by hand in the form of a flipbook. Now, the most popular example of the use of animation would be the development of animated movies.
2. Infographics: People are much more likely to retain information that is given to them in a visual format like an infographic than when they hear it or read it in a text-heavy document. Infographics can be used to present statistics, processes, comparisons, lists and a lot more. They have the power to summarize otherwise boring-sounding information into a visually appealing image.
3. Images: We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s why many of us are more inclined to click on an article that has the most beautiful image or pick up a book with the better cover - despite being told time and again not to judge a book that way. Images carry a lot of weight when it comes to communication. The quality, quantity, editing, captioning - it all needs to come together to make an impact.
4. GIFs: GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) fall somewhere in between images and animation as they can be both still or movies. They may or may not have text on them. They’re mostly used on the internet for fun - to convey reactions or insert humour. There are many websites that can help you create them and since some messaging and social media platforms allow them to be inserted with just a click, they can be used by businesses for marketing and branding purposes.
5. Videos: There are many types of videos, from a screen recording and a self-filmed phone video to a scripted video shoot with the help of multiple professionals. Lately, this format is often used on social media by celebrities, brands, influencers, healthcare professionals and more.
Visual communication skills can be used to shape a brand’s image, streamline processes, define goals, track success, market it to large audiences and so much more. Following are some strategies you can use:
Learning how to use different tools for the purpose of designing visual elements for communication is essential. There are many types of tools available depending on the kind of medium you’re working with.
Photo or video capturing: Cameras of many kinds are available in the market, which can be combined with different lenses. If you’re working on a smaller scale, you can download stock images and video files from the internet to work with.
Image editing: Once the images are taken, they can be edited on different platforms like print (for more basic functions) and Photoshop, or online tools like Pixlr. You can adjust the size, contrast, tone, brightness, crop and a lot more.
Designing: To add further design elements you can use software like Illustrator or easy-to-use online tools like Canva. Here, you can combine many multiple images, draw graphics, add text in different stylized fonts and more.
Presenting: Most of us get introduced to PowerPoint early in school and it’s a skill we keep on using for most of our professional lives. You can add images, text, designs, animations and more to present your ideas to your team, clients or audiences.
Some common examples of visual communication you’ll notice daily are:
If you look around you, you’ll find many more such examples. The ones that leave a lasting impression on you and inspire a change are the ones that are successful applications of visual communication.
Visual communication is a type of communication design and may be available under it. It’s available as an undergraduate and then a postgraduate course. A PhD program can also be pursued in the subjects. A Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) may require you to have completed higher secondary schooling in a science stream; however, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) can be pursued after completing 10+2 in any stream. Eligibility criteria may differ from institute to institute and could have various tests and interview rounds for admission.
At some institutes, it may be known as a Visual Media and Communications course. Many institutions also offer short-term certificate or diploma courses on the subject.
A course in visual communication will consist of subjects like communication, illustration, branding, typography, visual culture, photography, digital printing and more. Your final year may include a semester worth of modules that focus on an individual project. You’re provided insights from industry specialists who’ve learnt about the world of communication, often through trial and error.
Focusing on visual communication can strengthen the relationship between businesses and their consumers and speed up the growth of a brand. It helps combat challenges like user retention and upgrades the user’s experience on your platforms. A course in Visual Communication would arm you with all the skills and tools you may need to evolve the content, communications or design team of any organisation you choose to be a part of. Channelling your creativity and hard work could even lead to you bringing about innovative techniques into this ever-changing industry.
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