What is Visual Literacy?

Simply put, visual literacy is the ability to derive meaning from images of everything that we see—to read and write visual language.

There have been three major communications revolutions. The first was 5,000 years ago when cuneiform writing was invented. The Printing Revolution, spurred by Johann Gutenberg's printing press, was the second. 

We are in the midst of the third communications revolution: The Digital Revolution. The internet became publicly available in August 1991, the year most graduates of the class of 2013 were born.The world today is supersaturated with images, delivered mostly by digital media.

How do we make sense of it all? By slowing down. By taking our time. By being visually literate

Why Is It Important?

Visual Literacy is a form of critical thinking that enhances your intellectual capacity.
— Brian Kennedy

You employ visual literacy strategies all the time, often without realizing it. The goal of visual literacy is to highlight and investigate these processes and by doing so, create the opportunity to apply them in new and exciting ways.

While our education system directs its focus on textual and computer literacy, sensory literacy is often neglected.

Visual literacy is the key sensory literacy. It is a fundamental aspect of critical thinking.  And we must teach it.

It is clear that a shift must take place in our homes and schools if we are to meet the broader literacy needs of today’s learners.

Learning to See Better

Teaching visual literacy skills extends beyond the classroom, too. Visual literacy is important for every field: doctors and nurses; reporters and police officers; plumbers, bus drivers and cooks.

Slowing down and understanding what we see could save a life, solve a cold case or help prepare for a natural disaster.

The arts are a form of communication, a universal language. The arts train us to be effective storytellers.
— Brian Kennedy

Why Art Museums?

Because they contain the greatest examples of visual communication from across time and geography, art museums offer many opportunities to train people on how to see using visual literacy strategies.

At the Toledo Museum of Art, our approach is The Art of Seeing Art.℠ Teaching visual literacy skills encourages us to step back and absorb the whole of an image before breaking down its components to construct meaning from that image.