Published: May 1, 2023
Categories: ,

Visual Literacy - Have You Noticed Your Superpower?

Visual Literacy cover image

If you’re creative then visual literacy is likely to be in your DNA. You may not realise you’re even using it. 

You may have heard of financial literacy, health literacy and digital literacy, but do you know what visual literacy is?

People who are visually literate can decode, create and communicate images easily. They notice the clues in the visuals that bombard us daily. 

These include symbols, signs, diagrams, photographs, advertising, digital and analogue graphics, 3D imagery, comics, maps, right through to 2D and 3D art. 

Our world is awash with imagery. It can be clear and simple, or complex and full of meaning. Visual imagery communicates ideas without the need for words.

It is second nature for visual artists to generate imagery, untangle meaning and interpret visual information. 

It really is our superpower and here are a few reasons why:


Visual literacy enhances communication. 

Complex information can be communicated concisely and understood by more people. Visuals can tell stories and engage people. 

Visually literate people use the formal elements of design: line, shape, form, space, texture, colour and value to make meaning. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of the population is dyslexic, and new immigrants may not understand English, so images that can replace words become a universal language. 

Critical thinking

Analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving are critical thinking skills. Visual literacy supports these skills. 

Visually literate people look, think, wonder and try to make meaning. Visuals can push you beyond the boundaries, meaning and cultural contexts that words alone may create.

Boosts creativity

If you are visually literate, you are more likely to see things from different perspectives and generate new possibilities. An example of this is the rich diversity that a Google image search can generate compared to a simple word search.

Enables better decision making

Complex data presented visually and concisely aids decision making. 

The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is true and for busy people - images can help them make informed decisions more quickly. 

Creatives play an important role in translating information into easily digested visual data. A person who is visually literate might more easily see patterns and synthesise information into engaging images than people who rely on words alone. 

Improves learning

Visuals are powerful ways to learn and remember. 

Most of us learnt the alphabet using picture books. A is for apple - the image of an apple pops into mind before the letter does. 

Those who are visually literate can imagine, and create something from nothing. Visually literate creatives produce engaging visual aids that enhance and retain learning. 

Noticing and contextualising

Visually literate people notice the smallest details. While that ability doesn’t come naturally to everyone, it is a skill that can be taught. In Part Two I will share how hanging out in art galleries can be used to hone skills and solve crimes.

Our super power

Visual literacy enables us to communicate using a universal language, bring meaning and visual enrichment into people’s lives, solve problems, tell stories and even help people to navigate this world. 

In this increasingly visual world, visual literacy is a genuine super power.