Visual language is a form of communication that uses visual elements as opposed to formal written language to convey meaning or an idea. Graphicacy, the ability to communicate visually, is considered as important as literacy and numeracy, the abilities to read and count. Some people are visual thinkers, literally thinking in pictures, using that part of the brain that is emotional and creative to process and give meaning to information. Visual communication can find expression in paintings, drawings, symbols, or simply lines and shapes arranged for a specific effect.
Art is an example of visual language. A painting or sculpture can convey ideas or evoke specific kinds of emotional responses. It may also express ideas about historical events, abstract concepts, or simply be about the way certain shapes or forms “work” together or create a certain effect on the mind. Some researchers believe that different parts of the brain respond in unique ways to colors and shapes.
Pictograms and ideograms are types of visual language. Pictograms are pictures that resemble what they signify. They are still used today to communicate information. Many people around the world are familiar with the pictograms indicating such things as airports, public facilities, and non-smoking areas indicated by a cigarette in a circle with a diagonal line across it. Ideograms are pictures that represent ideas and can often be understood without the aid of written language.
Many of the ancient pictographs that still survive are considered art forms. These include rock paintings depicting events like a hunt, a battle, or forms of worship. Pictographs and ideograms are still in use in parts of the world that do not have an alphabet-based written script.
Visual thinking is considered a right brain activity, and is distinguished from left brain activity, which is thought to be linear and analytical. Visual thinkers tend to base conclusions about information on intuition as opposed to reason or language.
Some scholars trace modern alphabets to pictures. Letters are actually ancient pictures, and words are a series of pictures. Modern alphabet letters are not only phonetic symbols but are based on ancient religious images and symbols.
Musivisual communication is also a part of visual language. The term refers to music created specifically to enhance the visual experience of film. It corresponds to the images being seen on the screen, and the music may evoke a sense of dread, fear, or other emotions. Most movie goers understand the language of musical cues indicating that something dramatic or important is about to happen.