Using Twitter as the catalyst, Amy Balliett gives a recent real-world example of how visual communication can impact our experiences with technology and with each other. She uses this to define visual communication by explaining the distinction between graphic design and visual communication—terms that are often conflated.
- [Announcer] Near the end of 2015, an unexpected controversy erupted around the Twitterverse, as a result of a subtle button change. The long-time star button became a heart. Let's go to Twitter so I can show you what I mean. The functionality of this button remained the same. Once clicked, a Tweet would be saved for the future similar to a bookmark. In fact, all you would have to do is go to your Like section to view the Tweet.
So, if the button still did the same thing, why then were people so angry? The answer is simple. Visual communication. You see, the visual message that a heart implies, sends a vastly different message than a star. A heart implies love of something. It implies condoning a message and approval. A star on the other hand, has a myriad of meanings. It can suggest approval in some situations, it can act as a point of reference in others.
And more. By changing the symbol of this button from a star to a heart Twitter users felt as if their interaction with the tool was suddenly restricted. They could no longer use the star button to save Tweets that they didn't agree with. And now, they must be far more choosy with the tool. This seemingly small visual cue had a very large impact, and exemplifies the complexities of visual communication perfectly. Visual communication graphically represents information to efficiently and effectively create meaning.
When necessary, limited text is used to explicate the meaning. In years past, visual communication and graphic design were often considered the same thing. The term has evolved extensively since the growth and popularity of infographics began in 2009. And today it takes on a whole new meaning. While visual communication relies on the thorough understanding and quality execution of graphic design, it is not graphic design. Graphic design focuses on combining layout, typography, illustration and colors to produce an aesthetically pleasing image.
One that is often complemented by text, to help bring clarity to that image. Visual communication, however, requires every design choice to further a single message. Fonts, colors, illustration style, iconography, and more are all chosen to push a desired message or story forward without the need for text to drive that message. Beyond what the artist can control, such as aesthetic choices, visual communication also takes into account surrounding elements that someone else might control.
For instance, a recycling sign on its own might seem unnecessary. But when placed on a trash can, it is given further context that provides direction for anyone passing by. In the case of Twitter, the star button was being used in negative ways that deterred from Twitter's own mission. While a star in other contexts might mean approval, it didn't get the same meaning across in the context of a button on a 140-character social platform. People in heated debates, for example, would hit the star button when they wanted to have the last word.
It acted as kind of a digital microphone drop. To change this Twitter had a simple idea. Change the button to a heart. They chose a universal image with universal meaning. Visual communication in its purest form centers around single visual elements that deliver meaning. These elements include fonts, colors, numbers, shapes, icons, arrows, charts, graphs and more. Combining them into a single piece allows you to create two main products of visual communication.
Visual storytelling and information visualization. I'll provide a detailed breakdown of both in the next segment.
In this course, Amy Balliett—CEO of the visual communications agency, Killer Infographics—provides an in-depth look behind the curtain of visual campaigns. She shares her experiences and the lessons she learned from developing over 100 visual campaigns for Fortune 1000 clients and nonprofits, explaining how to develop a successful campaign from start to finish. She walks through how to concept and plan a campaign, and how to pitch that campaign to clients and colleagues. Amy also takes you through how to develop a visual language to guide your campaign, and shares how to avoid common pitfalls.
- Defining visual communication today
- Understanding why visual content is in high demand
- Defining a visual campaign
- Pitching your campaign
- Developing a creative brief
- Brainstorming your creative direction
- Presenting a pitch
- Finalizing direction and getting buy-in
- Developing a visual language
- Developing an illustration style
- Presenting your visual language
- Letting data drive your content
- Avoiding pitfalls