Visual Communication

Please note: this is archived course information from 2021 for COMMS 302.


Visual culture is not just part of our everyday lives, it is our everyday lives. This course introduces students to the practices, technologies and knowledges through which visual imagery is constructed. It aims to provide students with the tools for analysing and communicating with various kinds of visual images and objects. These may include brands, logos, informational graphics, photographs, advertisements, promos, paintings, cartoons, comics, emoji, films, maps, architecture and architectural diagrams.

The course begins with the physiology of seeing and the way our brains process visual images. We then move on to examine the different theories of visual communication (gestalt, constructivist, ecological, semiotics and cognitive theory) and principles of visual composition. We also consider how important seeing is for truth and knowledge and why and how we get pleasure from seeing. The second half of the course looks at different "regimes" of the image: painting and photography, film and television, comics, digital images and advertising.

Overall, the course encourages students to interrogate their culturally specific visual competencies and refine their skills in visual literacy while addressing issues of visual textuality and composition, identity, ethnicity, nation, class, gender and communicative interrelationships more generally.

Course goals

•        Gain an understanding of the physiological and cognitive aspects of seeing

•        Learn theories scholars have developed to explain visual communication

•        Learn to analyse and critique visual messages

•        Develop skills in producing visual messages

Availability 2021

Semester 1


Coordinator(s) Professor Laurence Simmons


COMMS 302: 15 points


ARTHIST 115 and 30 points in BA courses, or 15 points from COMMS 200-208 and 15 points in BA courses