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Sunni Brown

Author, Chief Infodoodler, sunnibrown.com


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Why is visual literacy discouraged in most cultures & WHAT CAN WE DO to change that?

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Visual literacy, if described as the ability to communicate via doodling, drawing, and sketching or described as the ability to display complex information in visual language formats, is often a literacy missing in adults despite it being a universal and natural inclination in children. Why does it disappear? And more importantly, what can we do to alter this course?

**ADMIN UPDATE: Sunni Brown has asked to extend her Conversation for two weeks. She will be jumping in to catch up with responses over the next two weeks. Happy posting everyone!


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    Nov 2 2011: I agree with numerous contributors to this post that the situation is not as bleak as it may at first appear.

    In my corporate career with huge manufacturing firms, it is my experience that visual literacy is highly valued for many reasons. One reason is that visual images can represent complex relationships concisely, accurately and in a compelling way. Another reason is that visual images usually do not need translation the way text does. I worked in firms that operated in up to 90 countries so the time, expense of translation was significant.

    I am surprised that Edward Tufte has not been mentioned in this conversation yet. He has published at least 4 major books on visual literacy and conducts workshops around the world on this topic. http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/ In one of my former employers, training in Tufte's workshops was a common choice for professionals across different functions.

    Another phenomenon is the rising popularity of illustrated/graphic novels as serious communication forms. Nick Sousanis is a talented graphic novelist who creates remarkable works on a variety of topics, including the nature of thinking. http://spinweaveandcut.blogspot.com/

    Yet another interesting development is the field of data visualization which has become more and more valued as the sheer amount of information freely available rises exponentially.

    Finally, I believe that cultures with pictograph-derived written languages have a greater regard for visual literacy. I recall working hard to create aesthetically balanced characters when learning to write Chinese script. The feeling and skills I used to write such characters were markedly different from those I experienced when writing English words, even English script.

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