Visual Communications in the Media

Why Study Light?


If we learn the basic components of light, we will notice light in all manner of visual media. A light’s direction, placement, and color within visual messages can communicate plot lines, character relationships, and symbolic messages. The first step in seeing how light can communicate complex messages is noticing its presence.


Light is indicative of mood and emotion, in both the literal and literary sense. Bright light is associated with directness and a sense of urgency; while candlelight is associated with romance and cozy spaces. Retailers use light to spotlight products in spaces and on shelves, and to create environments in which you want to buy their products and services.


Consider the last major purchase you made. Where were you? What did you buy? What influenced you to purchase that particular product? How was light used in this situation? If it was displayed in any other way, would it have changed your perception of the product?


The Eyes

As with light, much is communicated through the eyes. By studying how the eyes, retina, and mind work, we are better able to notice how eyes communicate complex messages. Is a person in a visual message looking confidently into the camera and is relaxed with the image-taking process, looking away from the lens as if embarrassed or covering the eyes completely as if to ward off the photographer? These drastically different visual messages are more easily noticed with a basic understanding of how the eyes direct images to the brain.




It is important to know how the visual cortex notices and processes the four visual cues so that visual communicators can make displays that are noticed by readers and viewers. These cues include:


  • Color
  • Form
  • Depth
  • Movement

If a presentation is never noticed, there is no chance of it having any effect upon a viewer.




The artist Georges Seurat is one of the world’s most fascinating artists. His technique of pointillism was pivotal in inspiring future generations of painters to think about painting in both individualistic and non-conformist ways. This week’s reading references many artists from different movements (i.e. Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci).


Conduct research on an artist from any movement that you find interesting. Choose one of their works. Analyze the image using the four visual cues from your reading: color, form, depth, and movement. Explain how the artist makes use of these four cues.


In your deconstruction of the image, also explain how the physiology of the eye helps you to see the four cues. This paper should be 2-3 pages long. Be sure to cite any resources using proper APA notation.

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