Fundamental Literacies Essential Characteristics

Essential Characteristics

Visual literacy is about the interpretation of visual media, its role in society, and how visual images can be used to convey messages and meaning.  Visual literacy courses are primarily about analyzing or producing visual media and their roles in the presentation of ideas and/or concepts.  Courses in visual literacy will include cultural, historical, and social contexts as they relate to visual artifacts. The course should promote an understanding of visual media as a means of understanding the world.

As a result of taking a General Education Visual Literacy course, students will be able to…

  1. Critically analyze or produce visual media and their roles in the presentation of ideas and/or concepts (such as photographs, sculpture, video, film, new media, presentations, or papers)
  2. Identify cultural, historical, and social contexts pertinent to the visual artifact
  3. Identify appropriate visual literacy vocabulary/terminology as it relates to course media 

Guidelines for Developing a Visual Literacy Course

Visual Literacy has been recognized within a growing number of academic disciplines as a necessary component of a comprehensive education. Of the seven literacies included in the IUSB General Education plan, “Visual Literacy” connotes the greatest variety of interpretations. A review of relevant terms is therefore useful here.

  • Visual Culture is the field of study devoted to visual images and messages. It is “a community of cultural and social practices that communicates meaning via mediums like television, advertising, fashion, dance, architecture, scientific imagery, news, photography, painting, language, and so forth.”
  • Visual Literacy is the ability to understand meaning in a visual message/image. It becomes the student’s “ability to read, perceive, understand, create/produce, use, and appreciate visual images in a variety of settings.”
  • Visual Communication refers to the techniques used to create these messages. More specifically, it is “the deliberate arrangement of visual images, with or without text, using the principles and elements of graphic design in order to communicate an intended, or unintended, message.”
  • Visual Media focuses on the media that transmit visual messages, including (but is not limited to) television, film, books, newspapers, advertising, dance, architecture, songs, computer programs (e.g., PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.), and so forth.


Visual Literacies Course Listing >>