Visual communications, a digital trend


Each media source that one is exposed to, print or broadcast, has the ability to physically affect one’s central nervous system and influences the way our brains process information (Saylor Academy, n.d., pg 7). Think of the adage, a photo is worth 1,000 words. A photo can elicit emotion and thought in an instant versus the written word or a video that may take time to establish its point. While visual communications were long in existence before the Internet, our understanding of them is relatively recent.

Spring boarding from scientists Hubel and Wiesel’s 1981 experiment to better understand how the visual cortex works through their probing of a furry feline brain with the help of a vice and some anesthesia while it watched a slide show—which won them a Nobel Prize—other researchers went on to discover that the brain most quickly responds to four major attributes of all viewed objects: color, form, depth, and movement (Lester, 2013, pg. 14).

goodpsychology. (2013). Hubel and Wiesel Experiment [Photo]. Retrieved from:

goodpsychology. (2013). Hubel and Wiesel Experiment [Photo]. Retrieved from:

With advances in our understanding of how the brain responds to visuals, communicators can use this information along with our advances in technology and digital trends to create and shape visual communications to have greater impact. With that, the goal of a visual communicator should go beyond standard publishing and broadcasting and incorporate powerful images that not only enhance a message (ethically), but one that a viewer will remember, too (Lester, 2013, pg. 11).

Some professional communicators adjunct their content with digital media tools like enhanced images created and/or edited with programs like Adobe Photoshop. More and more employment opportunities within the creative communications field are requiring knowledge of the platform, too, so one can jump right in and alter the raw. Graphic designers, tech communicators, forensic technicians, industrial designers, and even astronomers use the program to aid them in their duties (SkillPath, 2014, para 3-7).

While altered images can add esthetic appeal, they also stand the risk of complicating content and situations, especially when falsified. A continuous gripe in America is the use of Photoshop on models’ photos, especially women, which help perpetuate unrealistic body image goals for young girls, women, and even men. In 2009, Ralph Lauren took legal action against a blog called BoingBoing to remove an image originally photoshopped by the clothing line the blog made fun of via a tagline, Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis, but failed to win the case (Jones, 2013, pg. 25). In fact, the body of the model in the photo had been manipulated to the point that in reality, some of her vital organs would have to be missing as there wasn’t room to home them with her newer, narrower digital frame (Jones, 2013, pg 27).

Shaping our culture’s future through content is a constant for professional communicators. The result, though, is a variable, making it important to consider and weigh any implications, ethical or otherwise that may arise from enhanced visual communications. When crafting visual communications, especially in a digital world, creators should implement color, form, depth, and movement in a way that not only strengthens messages, but also our society (Lester, 2013, pg. 14).

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Rusty on your Photoshop skills? Check out these links to get you on your way to learning:

Adobe Photoshop


Jones, M. (2013). Media-bodies and Photoshop. Controversial images: media representations on the edge. New York: NY.

Lester, P. (2013). Visual communication: images with messages. Cengage Learning.

Saylor Academy. (n.d.). Understanding media and culture. Retrieved from:

SkillPath (2014). Adobe photoshop skills for a variety of professions. Retrieved from:


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