What Is: Visual Communication? no.1

Olly introduces some of the defining disciplines of visual communication.

Our language is filled with confusing words and terms that can be difficult to get to grips with. The term visual communication is no exception!

Breaking down the term helps a little but still opens up a number of challenging questions:

“‘Visual’ suggests that the end product must be seen. ‘Communication’ suggests that the image is something people should be able to look at and understand.”

This does not tell us how easy the image has to be to understand and in what form (painting, drawing, photo etc.) the work has to take. Confusing right?

So let’s not think about visual communication as a term with one end result but a world with many different visual outcomes. At its best, visual communication is a very powerful tool. The ability to communicate through images can enable artists and designers to challenge conventions, educate and inform the way people think. This is where things become really exciting!

The world of visual communication is huge. It enters into almost all aspects of our lives, from the food we buy (packaging design) to the books that we read, such as book cover and layout design.

Giving a full list of what this wonderful world contains would be hard (and probably a little boring) but there are certain areas in which visual communicators practice their craft, for example:


The use, creation and appreciation of words and letters in a creative way.

Credit: Lily Rowles and Ellen Foster Price. Lily and Ellen worked together to make fonts out of food to communicate important messages.

Explore Ellen and Lily’s individual work:

Lily Rowle on Workflow
Ellen Foster Price on Behance

Moving image

The expression of visual communication through the use of time and sound. This can also be broken into film, animation, music or even dance.

Credit: Harriet Godfrey-White. Harriet used a monoprint technique to capture the experience of Kings Cross station in this animation.


The making of images to communicate a narrative or to sell an idea. This could be expressed through sequential narrative, or comics/graphic novels, book cover design, publication illustrations, online illustrations, and children’s books.

Credit: © Texas Maragh. Texas’ comic plays with big themes of life and death.

Follow the story behind this comic:
Texas Maragh on Workflow

Information design

The laying out of important information in an imaginative and innovative way. For example; signage, cartography (maps) or data analysis.

Credit: © Arjun Harrison Mann. Arjun worked with his classmates during the second year of their graphic design degree to create a different type of pop up shop to raise money for their degree show.

Find out more about Arjun’s work:
Arjun Harrison’s website


The ability to capture the world though the lens of a camera. Jobs in this field could include fashion photography, journalism, wildlife photography, documentary photography or studio based photography.

Credit: © Yasmin Shkokani. Yasmin’s photography project on her graphic design degree shows you the power of capturing the overlooked.

Explore this and other projects on Yasmin’s workflow pages

Digital media

This field is how designers navigate the new and fascinating digital world around us. Explorations could be expressed through website design, coding or programming.

Credit: © Bo Xu. Immerse yourself in Bo’ game.

Explore more of Bo Xu’s work on Vimeo

Looking for more inspiration? Explore more on Olly’s ‘What Is: Visual communication?’ pinboard

Find out more about the course Olly teaches on:

BA (Hons) Graphic Communication Design

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