In every walks of life, we see visual communication. But knowingly or unknowingly it is taken for granted. For understanding what visual communication is, one need not to visit art galleries or read books pertaining to it. We need only to observe the things existing around us and in the world for that matter. There are day to day examples of visual communication we come across like mobiles, websites, packaging designs, books and so on. A classic example of visual communication is that of the clock that we refer to keep track of time. But mere noticing the things around us cannot facilitate visual communication in all respects. Therefore, looking at the clock there are many possibilities of visual messages being delivered.
Visual Communication Vs Art
The term ‘Visual communication’ is in itself a broad expression. Although it is closely related to fine or visual arts, it has to do more with design rather than ‘art’. This means, it has specified purpose or objective and intention of reaching to targeted ‘audience’ or ‘specific user’.
On one hand, ‘art’ is more expressive with focus on itself and having less concern about audience, while on the other hand, ‘design’ is more concerned with ‘targeted communication’. Its intension is to explore user experience.
In short key terms that separated ‘art’ from visual communication are ‘Target’, ‘Purpose’& ‘Function’
Visual communication& Graphic design
Until recent years, visual communication was referred to as ‘Graphic Design’. It was William Addison Dwiggins, an American designer who coined the term ‘Graphic Design’ to elevate the status of visual arts. With the invention of new media apart from the existing print medium, the term ‘visual communication’ became popular to facilitate understanding the complex nature of the field thus putting its emphasis rightly in the businesses. When it comes to communication, the general notion is that, the key factor for effectiveness is ‘Creativity’. It is also thought that the designers are those peculiar type with steep artistic inclination. Well, the reality is that, ‘creativity’ is only a part of the whole process of effective communication.
A visual communication designer has to think out-of-the-box by making use of both sides of his brain, keeping a methodical approach, thereby creating a systematic communication which clearly conveys the message.
In the words of the famous American designer Paul Rand, who designed the famed IBM logo amongst many other logos, The type of visual communication depends upon the approach one takes, which it may be Analytical Approach, Conceptual Approach or Expressive Approach.In this type of design, the target market, its nature, competitors and its existing position is studied and based on the data a visual identity is created which in turn plays a strategic and fundamental
role in attracting sales and increasing profit margin. It gives aesthetic look and feel of the brand. Thereby elevating its status in the market that is targeted. The approach is analytical. ‘Function and usability’ is the top priority in delivering message in the Information Designs. The main goal is to maintain good user experience when it comes to interaction with information. Wayfinding graphics, Road maps, signage, websites, schedule or time-tables are some of examples which are based on ‘Clarity & Accuracy’ forming the main criteria to facilitate understanding and reducing frustration or stress.Advertising is a flourishing business all over the world. The target audience or market is pre-defined. It involves thorough market research which gives way to build a strong concept for a design in order to manipulate audience’s emotions, change their perception / behavior, to grab attention of passer-by and to sell the ‘Big Idea’. Thus here the approach is conceptual.Expression of ideas and its underlying emotions is the main goal while working in Illustration discipline. Communication happens by way of drawing and painting using traditional or digital media. Designers or illustrators may choose to work with book or magazine publishing firms or work independently to publish their individual works. Illustrations for children’s book, educational materials, and illustrations for social and political awareness are some of the areas where illustrations are widely used. Their work can be revolutionary for social upliftment or for a special cause using sacrasm and also to bring about awareness among the masses. It uses more expressive approach. Motion designer use combination of moving images, text and special effects for telling a story and influencing emotions of audience. Videos, motion graphics, sound and animations for televisions and on-screen graphics, opening credits for movies are some of the examples which delivers strong visual impact on viewer’s mind.Books are the most fundamental & ancient form of visual communication. Designers and art directors get inputs from authors, illustrator & photographers which help in creating visual concepts for books. As this type of communication heavily depends upon pictures & type-setting, the main aim is to provide pleasant reading experience visually & physically ( size, weight and material). The essence of being a designer is ‘disciplined freedom’ — that you have to first and foremost be disciplined about the ‘rules of the game’ (i.e. communication), the constrains and limitations, as well as the ‘craft’ of it, before you could attain a sense of freedom. Learn the rules before you break them, and when you do break them, break them with grace and dignity.Designing is a way of solving problem creatively. Therefore it is much more than what it seems to be. As designers use both the side of his brain, he has to create impact on viewers by using playfulness, sarcasm, firmness at appropriate times. He has to explore all the possibilities before drawing conclusions. He has to be critical as well as objective in problem solving.Is Design a linear process?One does not always have to move in a straight line from A to B when creating a design. Designers take detours, gather facts and come up with many possibilities of solution before they decide what to do. This process is called ‘Divergent Thinking’Making mind-maps, sketching, photography, drawing flowcharts are some of the methods employed by designers in this process. Designers need not to be too critical about their findings. The key is to play with the many possibilities one can come up with. Once this is done the next step is to choose the most effective & relevant solution to the problem. At this stage designers can critical analyze the data gathered. Often they seek feedback from their potential audiences.The importance of research
Research is the intrinsic part of design. Assumptions cannot facilitate effectiveness in design. The following are some examples of research activities: Ethnography — observing and documenting user behaviour using camera/video camera and taking notes for critical analysis and drawing conclusions about the user as a whole. Surveys and interviews
Competitive analysis — Understanding the competitors of the client and its existing position amongst the competitors
Secondary research — reviewing statistics related to the users/market, studying historical precedents, research concerning usability.