What Is Visual Communications?

Visual communications involves relaying messages through visual media. Read on for a detailed visual communication definition, types of visual communication, and information on careers in this field. Schools offering Communication Design & Interactive Media degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Visual Communication Definition

Visual communication is a sub-field within the discipline of communication that examines how information is conveyed through visual means. People working in this field use images and design elements to connect with audiences, often in an attempt to persuade or entertain them. Interested individuals can find options for learning about specific types of visual communications at a variety of levels from associate's through graduate degree programs. Studying visual communication can lead to careers in graphic design, advertising, public relations, and mass media.

Degree Levels Associate's, certificate, bachelor's, master's
Job Requirements Portfolio of prior work may be required; software certifications available
Salary (2018)* $50,370 (for graphic designers); $92,780 (for art directors)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 3% (for graphic designers) 1% (for art directors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Visual Communication Education Programs

A wide variety of education options are available for students interested in visual communication. At the associate's degree level, students can find programs in areas like graphic design and media production. Undergraduate students can choose from certificate or bachelor's degree programs. At this level, visual communication programs may be offered through departments of communication or studio art. Students wishing to advance their education further can find master's programs in visual communication and in related areas like multimedia journalism. These education programs may allow students to complete an internship and construct a portfolio of work to show potential employers.

Visual Communication Classes

Since the field of visual communication is broad, academic programs feature a wide range of classes. For example, a graphic design program may emphasize technical skills in digital imaging and web design along with general communication principles. A graduate visual communications class may even focus on leadership and management topics in order to prepare students for advanced positions in their organization. In general, students in a visual communication program can expect classes like the following:

  • Foundations of Visual Communication
  • Mass Communication Writing
  • Photography
  • Typography
  • Design Software and Technology
  • Photojournalism

Career Options in Visual Communication

Although the field is broad, a career in visual communication is focused on conveying messages to audiences through visual means. Visual communication education programs may prepare graduates for work in web design, advertising, media, public relations, film, or marketing. Many students interested in visual communications become graphic designers or art directors.

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers create visual works to communicate with consumers. These professionals often use software programs to design pieces like advertisements, magazines, product packaging, and web pages. Graphic designers may create logos and illustrations to help organizations represent themselves to the public. Work in this field involves knowledge of typography, photo editing, and layout.

Art Directors

Art directors oversee the visual aspects of media messages like advertising campaigns, newspapers, magazines, and movies. Like graphic designers, their work is concerned with visual impressions and visual approaches to connecting with consumers. As they move through their careers, graphic designers may advance to positions as art directors. In this role, in addition to creative work, art directors may also oversee a staff of designers, meet with clients to discuss projects, and handle departmental budgeting.

Salary and Outlook Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for graphic designers was $50,370 in May 2018. For art directors, the median salary was $92,780. Both of these positions are projected to see relatively low growth between 2018 and 2028, largely due to strong competition in the field. Candidates with a strong portfolio may have an advantage in finding employment. In addition, as organizations seek more of an online presence, designers and directors with experience with digital platforms and multimedia design may be preferable to employers.

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