How to Use Visual Communication in Graphic Design and Why It Matters

While graphic design is a visual medium, it is not limited to just pleasing the eye, its job is to tell a story or communicate a message so it must therefore appeal to a number of senses. Effective communication is critical in the visually-driven field of graphic design. Strong graphic design can convey messages, provoke emotions, and improve user experiences. In this blog post, we will examine the significance of visual communication in graphic design and share with you some approaches and best practices for using it effectively.

Recognising Visual Communication

By definition, visual communication is the use of images, typography, colours, and layout to convey messages and share information. It encompasses everything that defines graphic design as it is the means by which designers communicate with their intended audience.

Colour, typography, images, shapes, lines, and textures are all important elements of visual communication with each aspect working in harmony to come together to tell a story.

Some of the fundamental principles of visual communication include balance, contrast, hierarchy, and unity. Combined with a designer's vision, it is these principles that will help create a successful design that can stand the test of time.

The Importance of Visual Communication in Graphic Design

Visual design is a means to rapidly and efficiently convey complex thoughts and information. Designers will take a message or a story and compress it into consumable graphics that resonate with their audience. This is in effect, the essence of graphic design. The clever use of colour and colour psychology can generate a feeling and can elicit an emotional response to a design. A viewer will often make connections to a piece of art and it is this that defines the success of a graphic design. If a design communicates its message clearly, it will elicit a response on a deeper level and resonate with the audience.

Visual communication is an all round experience for a user and is the main component of UX design. By using straightforward icons, clear navigation, and visually attractive interfaces designers can build a visual language that guides a user seamlessly. The same rules apply in the development of a brand's identity. The key is often to keep it simple. A designer’s goal is to create a brand that accurately and imaginatively conveys the ethos and personality of a brand.

Effective Use of Visual Communication

The strategic use of colour and constructing a visual hierarchy will direct the viewer's eye to the most important information and in the order it needs to be communicated. A graphic designer needs to understand the value of each part of the message and then arrange it accordingly.

This also includes the appropriate use of typefaces, font sizes, and even the spacing of text. This will ensure readability while also improving the overall aesthetic impact of the design.

When using images the selection needs to be handled with care. Combining relevant and effective images can improve the storytelling part of design and generate an entire mood or ambience in even the most simple pieces. Layout and composition concepts, such as balance, proportion, and whitespace, should be considered tools of the trade. All of these elements and principles can be used by designers to produce aesthetically appealing and engaging designs that effectively express the intended message.

The same principles apply to print, UI and UX design, branding and advertising. While each method of communicating needs its own unique approach, the design concept changes very little.

Visual Communication Techniques

The first and most important research a designer will do, is to understand the target audience. A deep knowledge of the target audience's preferences, expectations, and cultural background is the only way a visual design can successfully resonate with them.

One way to make a message more accessible and engaging is to simplify a more complex idea. Using visual metaphors, infographics, and data visualisation, are strong examples of ways to reach your audience. You don’t want your audience to have to work hard to parse a message. People will simply give up.

A great way to not only instil familiarity of a brand but also to gain trust, is through consistency in visual aspects such as colour palettes, typography, and images. The same elements across a range of mediums and materials reinforces brand identification and improves recognition.

But, don’t be afraid to experiment. Designers can create distinctive and memorable visual experiences by exploring innovative visual approaches, mixing multiple techniques, and pushing creative boundaries.

Graphic Design Tools and Techniques for Visual Communication

Graphic design software, such as Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign), offers extensive tools for designing and modifying visual elements.

Image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop enables designers to enhance, retouch, and modify photographs. There is huge scope to the level of creativity a designer can achieve with these programs. Designers can also produce informative and visually appealing infographics and data visualisations using specialised programs such as Canva, Tableau, or Adobe Illustrator.

And finally, Adobe After Effects or Blender will help create dynamic and compelling motion graphics and animations that can be hugely beneficial when tackling more tricky or difficult topics.

The Design Process

It all begins with thorough research. A designer will lay the groundwork by carrying out extensive primary, secondary and market research in order to truly understand their audience. Then the concept is created. With the preparation in place, a designer can make informed decisions that correspond with the project's aims and target audience.

Before going into the digital design process, designers use sketching and wireframing to explore different visual solutions. It is during this process that a designer will experiment with layouts and allow ideas to further develop. When the basic elements of the design have been defined, the design will then enter the prototyping and iterative process. This allows designers to test and refine visual communication aspects, receive feedback, and improve the overall user experience.

The final stage is to present the design to stakeholders. Presenting design concepts and working with clients or stakeholders is the litmus test to the success of the message you are attempting to express. The visual intentions should be clear but feedback at this point is invaluable. Make sure to ask leading questions and receive insightful input.

Visual Communication Success

A graphic designer needs to remain curious and enthusiastic about work that came before them and work that is all around them. It is always advisable to explore case studies of compelling logo designs and branding initiatives. Especially in cases where visual communication captures brand essence and builds brand identification.

Seek out examples of editorial design and layout that successfully communicate material, improve readability, and create interesting reading experiences.

This includes website and app designs where the efficient use of visual communication has successfully conveyed information and generated memorable experiences..

Other areas of graphic design that deserve attention are packaging design and product communication. Study packaging designs that use visual communication to distinguish them from the competition. Examine how they communicate key features and elicit desired emotions in consumers.

Visual communication is at the centre of graphic design, allowing designers to express messages, inspire emotions, and create memorable experiences. Designers can enhance their design work and engage their target audience by recognising the value of visual communication, leveraging effective strategies, and applying the correct tools and methodologies.

Are you ready to master visual communication through graphic design? Join our Graphic Design Academy to learn the secrets to outstanding graphic design.

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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