Understanding Visual Language

Source: Fast Company, Jun 2015

Symbolic icons tend to last.

A question designers may ask linguists has to do with how language changes over time. If language constantly changes because people and their culture evolve, why should the more visual aspects of language not follow suit, including the language of man-made objects?

Language is not just verbal or written. Speech as a means of communication cannot strictly be separated from the whole of human communicative activity, which also includes the visual. The word “imagination” definitely suggests that we can also think in images.

Visual language is defined as a system of communication using visual elements.The term visual language in relation to vision describes the perception, comprehension, and production of visible signs. Just as people can verbalize their thinking, they can visualize it.

A diagram, a map, and a painting are all examples of uses of visual language. Its structural units include line, shape, color, form, motion, texture, pattern, direction, orientation, scale, angle, space, and proportion. The elements in an image represent concepts in a spatial context, rather than the time-based linear progression used in talking and reading. Speech and visual communication are parallel and often interdependent means by which humans exchange information.

 

 

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