Detail of ‘Still Life with Fruit and Flowers’ by Balthasar van der Ast, 1621, via Rijksmuseum.

According to Entrepreneur, visual literacy can be a powerful tool for those looking to develop their brand. PR expert Christina Chara Ioannou explores the benefits of being visually literate in the article ‘Why You Must Understand Visual Literacy to Help Your Brand Grow’.

What is visual literacy?

In the most general terms, your visual literacy is the ability to interact and understand visual communication — or, in other words, bits of information expressed in the form of images rather than written words and numbers. Colors, forms and shapes can also be parts of visual communication, expressing certain feelings or evoking associations.

At Novagram, our visual literacy has been honed over decades, meaning that we’re highly attuned to the subtleties of visual communication. Our design and branding work helps our clients to better communicate with their audiences, with great results. For us, visual literacy underpins many aspects of our work: especially logo design, where we create symbols that carry real meaning so that they resonate both with our clients and their clients.

Visual literacy involves staying up to date with what’s going on in our clients’ industries, and making sure that our visual work remains relevant. Context is important when it comes to visual literacy:

Over the centuries, symbols and concepts constructing visual culture and the means of interacting with it have changed drastically. A seventeenth-century Dutch still-life with fruit and flowers may look like a nice decoration today, but the audiences read it like an open book at its creation. They knew that some symbols — like lilies or fish — represented religious symbols and others, like a half-peeled lemon, expressed the high status of the painting’s owner, celebrating their piety and abundance in their household. More complex and multilayered messages were coded into history paintings or portraits – sometimes up to a point when only a small amount of highly educated noblemen could decipher them.

At Novagram, we create work that makes perfect sense to our clients’ target audiences. Through the thought and rigorous research that goes into each branding project, we are able to distil big ideas into simple, effective work that just clicks.

Attracting your niche

Just like in the case of a Dutch still-life, you want your audience to understand and react to your message. If you are looking for customers who share your values and ideas, you must send them a personalized message! Think of your audience, their habits, hobbies, dreams, aspirations and expectations of your brand.

We always conduct in-depth research into our clients’ target audiences, as well as their industries as a whole. This allows us to deliver work that stands out, invites curiosity and ultimately empowers our clients to grow their businesses. Our experience working with clients across multiple industries affords us the benefit of understanding a wide range of audiences. Our knowledge and experience help us to hone in on the people that matter, and create work that engages.

Trend vs. tradition

Some brands choose to interact with the latest trends in their niche, while others prefer to keep in their lane and do what they do best. Both approaches are valid and understandable, yet recognizing and understanding trends and tendencies within your sector could be a life-saving tip.

Instead of simply replicating the aesthetic of a trend, analyze it from the position of values.

Think of a trend like cottagecore: under its mass-marketed surface, it offered something more than just floral dresses; it offered a more sustainable lifestyle, closeness to nature and value of artisanal labor.

At Novagram, our focus is always on creating work that lasts for as long as you need it to. If our clients are looking for design work to support a short-lived campaign, we’re able to tap into our industry knowledge, understand trends, and create something that stands out. At the same time, we’ve created brands and websites that have lasted for decades – forgoing trends in favour of timelessness. We work with each client to decide what approach best fits their requirements and when.

How to develop visual literacy

1. Pay attention to the world around you.

Although this advice sounds pretty obvious, most of us skim through the masses of visual information without a second thought. We are so used to interacting with images daily that we barely pay attention to how they work and make us feel. Think and ask questions. How does a particular design make you feel? Is it understandable? Do you feel the designer’s intent to make it as it is, or is it a random combination?

2. Go to art museums and galleries.

Studying art history is your next fundamental step in developing your visual literacy. Once again, pay attention to your feelings, notice recurring symbols and compare contexts. Instead of turning away from a painting you genuinely hate, ask yourself what exactly provokes such a strong emotional response. Is it a personal association or a more or less universal thing? Every art movement had a philosophy and message behind it. Exploring art movements and their ideas could help you formulate your visual language so your customers can associate their needs and desires with your brand.

3. Take breaks!

Last but not least, give your brain a rest. In the age of social media, the ubiquity of images and meanings is suffocating and overbearing. To make sense of things and take them seriously, sometimes you have to physically stop the flow of visual information. Turn your attention away from the screen to a printed book, a homecooked meal, or nature — sometimes, it offers the best solutions.

If you don’t have the time to develop your visual literacy — or if you have an immediate need for this skill, Novagram can help. Whether you need a new logo or you’re looking to embark on a full branding project, we have the expertise to deliver the results you’re looking for.

To learn more about what we can do for you, get in touch.

We are Novagram, a UK creative agency
specialising in branding, design and digital development