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COM 232 Visual Literacy. Prof. Juliet Davis | What is “visual literacy”?. The ability to interpret and produce visual messages. What does “visuality” mean?. Of or relating to sense of sight. Visual Literacy Facts.

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com 232 visual literacy

COM 232Visual Literacy

Prof. Juliet Davis |

what is visual literacy
What is “visual literacy”?

The ability to interpret and produce visual messages.

what does visuality mean
What does “visuality” mean?

Of or relating to sense of sight.

visual literacy facts
Visual Literacy Facts
  • Visual literacy is learned, just as other kinds of literacy are learned.
  • How many years in school do we spend learning to read, interpret, and produce words?
  • We live in an image-saturated society, and yet most of us have no education in visual literacy.
  • Professors of visual literacy devote their lives to the goal of becoming more visually literate themselves, so it’s not simple or easy (example: art directors in ad agencies)
am i visually literate
Am I visually literate?

We all are, to some extent

this is all pretty complex stuff
This is all pretty complex stuff.
  • The question is: How are YOU going to learn to communicate on so many complex levels, when you thought it was all so simple?
first what if you don t
First, what if youdon’t?
  • Filmmakers with hundred-million-dollar budgets can’t afford to communicate in ways they don’t intend.
  • Art Directors can’t afford to make mistakes with multimillion dollar advertising budgets.
  • How much does a Hollywood eyebrow designer cost per job? A set designer?
  • Visual communication is a highly complex and expensive business.
  • You need to know what your colleagues already know in fields of visual communication.
who needs to be highly visually literate
Who needs to be highly visually literate?

We can argue that we all do.

Moreover, how many of you in here think

you might end up in one of these fields?



Public Relations


Corporate Communications



Graphic Design

Web Design

TV Production

Fine Art


Rocket Science

our goals this won t hurt a bit
Our Goals“This won’t hurt a bit.”
  • Perceive meaning you didn’t see before.
  • Understand fundamental theories about visual culture that help you see those layers of meaning
  • Be able to create visual imagery with this new literacy.
  • Be prepared for subsequent COM courses in the “Visual Aesthetics” quadrant and others
  • Be prepared for your career of choice
O.K., now back to the lion . . . “How can I be sure that meaning is really there and that I’m not ‘reading too much into it?’”
  • Your development as a student
  • This isn’t just about figuring out what the author intended . . .
meaning is in the mind of the viewer
Meaning is in the mind of the viewer.
  • All images are “texts” that become interpreted by audiences (e.g., “film text”).
downy s whitening
Downy’s “Whitening”

Headline: "Now Whitening Has a Softer Side that's Fit for an Angel." 

Small Print: "Introducing Downy Plus Whitening, the only fabric softener that brightens and whitens while it softens."

See: Anne McClintock’s "Soft-Soaping Empire: Imperial Racism and Commodity Advertising"

greyhound hustle ad
Greyhound“Hustle” Ad

Go hustle.

Go hang.

Go downtown.

Stop less.

Go more.

Go Greyhound.

is tinky winky gay
Is Tinky-Winky gay?
  • He’s purple
  • Triangle on head
  • Carries a purse
  • Male voice
  • Was an icon to gay community long before Falwell’s criticism.

3) Many Possible MeaningsExample: corporate Communications Debacle: What were some of the possible messages customers might have perceived when it decided to take down “Happy Holidays” and replace it with “Merry Christmas?”4) “The medium is the message.”How did the very mention of this change in TV news coverage impact the message itself?How does the KIND of business Wal-mart is impact the message itself?

what s involved in this class
What’s involved in this class?
  • Learn vocabulary and concepts
  • View and analyze visual media:fine art, film, photography, advertising, TV, new media.
  • Critically read and respond to theory about visual communication.
  • Creatively use visual media.
  • Work together in group dialogue and presentations as well as individual assignments.
  • Exercise both creativity and analysis, writing and visual production.

ABOVE: Cheezy animation that your professor is already resorting tojust to keep yourattention.

are you ready for com 232
Are you ready for COM 232?
  • Like learning any other language, visual literacy can be frustrating at first.
  • What’s your major?
  • What’s your class level?
  • What are your interests?
  • How strong are your reading comprehension and writing skills?
  • How creative are you?
  • How observant, thoughtful, and insightful are youabout what you read and view?
student introductions


Look at Syllabus

NOW YOU CANHELP a student become visually literate and get a good job one day in communication. It doesn’t take much: just pennies a day (adding up to about $29,000 per year).Make a difference.Change a life.