Visual communication

Visual communication: what it is in design and advertising

Imagine that you find yourself in an unfamiliar subway station. In front of you is a long dark corridor with many branches decorated with signs in the form of arrows. The signs are examples of visual communication, which helps to navigate in space.

Visual communication is a way of conveying information through lines, colors, and shapes. The designer’s job is to explain the message through images so that the user understands it instantly. How this works, we’ll look at in this article.

How does visual communication work in design?

Information can be communicated in several ways – text, audio, video or graphics. The designer chooses the method that will work most effectively.

Chebupizzas are small, enclosed triangles of pizza that you can take with you. It is difficult to colorfully describe this advantage in words, it is more obvious to compare the size of the pizza with a tray or a traditional slice. The photo on the package – instantly conveys information about the size and appearance.

The illustration also describes other characteristics of the product – the juiciness and crispness of the crust.

Visual communication performs several tasks at the same time:

  • Attracts attention.
  • Appeals to emotions.
  • Informs.
  • Increases engagement through association.

The advantage of visual communication over other methods is the ability to create a clear image in a few seconds. Visual content increases associations with messages, increases brand awareness and engagement.

Different types of illustrations can be used to explain meaning:

  • Graphs, diagrams, instructions.
  • Signposts, navigation boards, infographics.
  • Buttons on the site, product illustrations.
  • Videos.
  • Interfaces for mobile devices.
  • Branding, logos.
  • Advertising.
Visual communication

Why do we need visual communication?

Photos, infographics, memes, illustrations and videos are just a few of the forms of visual content that influence how people consume information. The importance of all these visual assets will only grow over the next few years.

According to WebDAM, online visual communication is used to attract attention, engage users and increase sales. 

Visual communication helps users process, understand and remember information faster.

This is a social project to fight plastic bags launched in Spain. It is possible to reduce the production of bags and save animals if every fifth inhabitant of the planet refuses to use them. Consumption would be reduced by 177,000,000,000 bags per year.

This is a huge figure that can get lost in the stream of information viewed by users on a daily basis. It is clearer to put the image of dead animals on plastic bags.

Not everyone wants to be associated with someone who unknowingly kills animals. 

Another example is the design on the packaging of cigarettes, built on associations. The customer can visually see what she will look like if she doesn’t quit smoking.

Why is visual communication more effective than graphic design?

The graphic designer designs the text – adjusts the font, colors, boldness, spacing and slant of the letters. His job is to put together a layout so that all the elements are in harmony with each other. 

The communication designer does more. He offers the client a solution to his problem, creating a visual image. This design appeals to the target audience and takes into account its characteristics.

Through the illustration, the designer tells the customer about the product and influences his decision.

The subway layout is an example of thoughtful visual communication. The user can choose the direction of travel in a few seconds by looking at the map. This is helped by:

  • Lines of subway branches, differentiated by color.
  • Stumps with station names.
  • Circles indicating transfer stations.
  • Icons showing the surface infrastructure.
  • Legend with a list of designations.

These are all visual communication elements that help convey information about how to navigate the layout. 

Basic Elements of Visual Communication

Visual communication is based on a few minimal elements: point, line, outline, and color. They help convey a message and form a specific image.


The dot is the basic element of visual communication. It attracts attention and creates a sense of depth.

Communication design can use any objects that form dots – icons, freestanding large numbers or letters, logos.

The horizontal Yandex panel is made up of icons and dots. The shape and contrasting colors make them stand out on the page and draw the eye.

The logo is also a dot. It stands out on the layout and is associated with the company.

Dot objects always attract attention. To increase or decrease the impact of a dot, you can change the size, density, contrast to the background, or free space around it.


A line is points connected to each other to form lines. Lines are considered the most convenient elements of visual communication. They are easy to read, concise and consistent. 

When developing websites, designers often place menus and news in a line: the data is compactly arranged, but the information is not lost.

The line is a horizontal element that gravitates to the edges of the layout. An object across the layout divides the illustration into parts and ruins the image.


Contour is a line that forms a shape – a triangle, rectangle, or square.

An outline helps to make an object stand out in the layout. The thicker the outline, the more it attracts attention. 

The first thing that attracts attention is a thick brown outline around the icons. It interferes with the perception of information and distracts from studying the infographic. To reduce the effect, you can reduce the boldness of the lines and the intensity of the color.


It’s believed that you can use color to convey emotion:

Red excites, increases activity, and stimulates hunger.

Blue calms. It can reduce stress levels and tune in to work.

Yellow evokes a desire for action and enhances mood.

Marketers and designers know what effect colors have on customers, and use this to develop packaging, design outlets and other facilities.

When choosing a color scheme, experts use color circles that take into account the compatibility of colors.  

In visual communication, bright, juicy colors attract attention. White and pastel shades can be used for the background, as they complicate perception.

To increase customer comfort, the Pyaterochka chain of stores tried to change the lighting. In the new format, the light is focused on the shelves with goods. Fixtures with a different color spectrum were installed for each product category to enhance the color features of the products and emphasize their properties.

Lamps with a green spectrum were hung above fruits and vegetables, and lamps with a yellow spectrum above bread. This makes the products look fresher and more appealing. 

With the right light company Signify has solved the customer’s problem – increased the attractiveness of the goods and take care of customers.

The basic elements of visual communication – this is the basis from which the development of layout.

What is important in communication design?

To solve the problem of the client, you need to have a broad outlook – to understand marketing, psychology, design, typography, layout and interface, as well as to develop a good eye.

In addition, every designer needs to be able to interpret the image clearly. It is possible to convey meaning through associations that more accurately describe the product, or to simplify the message as much as possible without losing meaning.

To do this, the designer must be able to analyze the audience, determine a useful action from the customer’s point of view, and appeal to images the customer understands.

The park map looks more like a children’s maze – there are no paths, no identifying signs. If a person is looking for a water maze or an observation hill, he will not find this information on the map.

Here there is more information – there are signs of attractions and tourist areas. Entrances, exits and parking lots are marked. Some rides are distinguished not only by captions, but also by distinctive images: on the slide “Snake Gorynych” is depicted the hero of the same name. The user can find the attraction on the map without correlating the numbers to the legend.

The visual designer should also know about technology – work in graphics editors, understand layout, 3D-graphics and AR-effects. His task is to solve the client’s problem with minimal cost using any technology.