Monday, September 5, 2016

Visual Literacy: Visual Symbols

Hello readers! As always, I apologize that it has been awhile... when life gets busy, I struggle to find time to blog!

This semester I am enrolled in a course called Visual Literacy with Magda Galloway. She has created multiple assignments that are to be submitted via blog, so you will see much more activity here this upcoming semester!

In this first visual literacy blog, I have been tasked to describe how visual symbols affect my life on a daily basis. That's an incredibly difficult question to answer, as I believe visual symbols are incorporated into my life in many ways that I probably don't realize, but I will give this a shot!

First, it is important to understand what exactly a visual symbol is. I like to think of a visual symbol as a simplified way to represent reality. For example, a reading about a study that asked the participants to identify their favorite colors is not a visual symbol. However, if the researcher collected the data and organized it into a pie chart representing the responses, that would be a visual symbol! Visual symbols are ways to clearly represent ideas and concepts in graphics.

Visual symbols are everywhere! Any sort of chart, graph, or diagram that I look at in my textbook is a visual symbol. These could relay information about a variety of topics; as an education student, the charts/diagrams/graphs I typically look at are either related to data about students or content knowledge I will have to teach someday.

Image used with permission from Wikimedia Commons

The drawings I create to solve math problems are visual symbols. Creating a drawing of a situation helps me visualize what is occurring in the problem and helps me understand it more clearly so that I can properly solve it.

My re-creation of a sketch I made for my problem solving class

Maps are another type of visual symbol. I use maps all the time because I am awful at remembering how to get from point A to point B. Maps visually represent the real world geography in a simplified way that is easy for me to follow.

An image of my Maps app on the iPhone 5S

Something you may be wondering about is a street sign: is that a visual symbol? The answer is no, there is a difference between signs and symbols. Signs have a mutually agreed upon definition that you have to know in order to understand the meaning of the sign. For example, the blue square with a stick person in a wheelchair means "handicap accessible." In the case of the street sign, we know that on the road, a red octagon means "stop" and an orange diamond refers to construction. (For a comprehensive manual of traffic signs, see here.) Symbols are different from signs in that if you are visually literate, you should be able to glean meaning from a symbol even if you have never seen it before.

Image used with permission from Pixabay
Image used with permission from Pixabay

There are a multitude of visual symbols in business and advertising. One example we did not talk about in our class is the Hershey's Kiss. If you look at a package of Hershey's Kisses, you will notice that between the "K" and "I" in "Kisses," there is a sideways outline of a kiss. (Please look at the image below and see if you can spot it.) Little symbols like this are frequently incorporated in brand names; I encourage you to take a moment the next time you grocery shop and try to spot a few! I love seeing the ways professionals have cleverly tricked the consumer into thinking about their product or service.

Image used with permission from theimpulsivebuy on flikr

These are just some initial thoughts about the visual symbols in my life! However, Magda has already told our class that we will be revisiting this idea later... so stay tuned for another post about visual symbols in my life later this year!

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