Visual Language

What is Visual Language?

Visual language refers to a writers’, speakers’, knowledge workers’ . . . use of design elements, design principles, design tools, and data visualization methods to compose and communicate.

For artists and writers, when composing, whether in alphabetical discourse, multimodal compositions, or art, visual language may be a medium of expression.

Related Concepts: Design; Invention; Semiotics; Visual Brainstorming

Visual language has been a central concern for researchers across multiple disciplines, including Linguistics, Design, Design Thinking, and Design Studies.

Art, Composition Studies

For artists and writers, visual language may be a form of inspiration and a medium of expression. Creators speak of being inspired by an ineffable image, a felt sense.


The concept of visual language is deeply rooted in linguistics and Ferdinand de Saussure’s concept of Semiotics: Sign, Signifiers and Signified.

For Saussure, literacy, communication, and interpretation evolve around the writer, speaker, knowledge maker’s ability to associate a signifier (e.g., a word, mathematical formula, computer code, image) with a concept (signified):

The visual design of your documents plays an extraordinary role in modern communications. Note, e.g, this summary by MoveableINK:

1. 90% of the information processed by the brain is visual.
2. It takes only 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image.
3. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.
4. 80% of people remember what they see, compared to ten percent what they hear and 20 percent of what they read.
5. In responses to a recent survey, 95% of B2B buyers said that they wanted shorter and highly visual content.
6. Publishers that feature visual content grow traffic 12 times faster than those who don’t.

Source: 29 Incredible Stats that Prove the Power of Visual Marketing


Why does visual language matter?

Visual language matters because it enhances the clarity, engagement, and resonance of communication. In a world increasingly saturated with information, the ability to present content in a visually compelling way can mean the difference between your message being ignored or embraced. Understanding visual language enables you to design messages that captivate attention, stimulate emotions, and facilitate understanding. Whether you’re an artist, writer, designer, or a student preparing a presentation, mastering visual language equips you with the tools to articulate your ideas with more authority and impact.

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