Visual Literacy through
Publishers' Bindings Online
The ways which knowledge or information are shared and
consumed by society are constantly evolving
along with social culture and
its customs. Throughout human history, cultures have adapted
to create new beliefs and systems
which correspond with their contemporary customs. Culture
is comprised of behavior patterns and may manifest its
self through arts, beliefs, institutions and other
products of human creativity and thought. Examining the
development of communication
systems such as language illustrates
have developed. Characters in alphabets proceeded symbolic
pictures, thus the ways in which knowledge
is shared have transformed from an image based information
transmission system to a text based information
transmission system. The earliest language systems in human
symbols and images.
3200 BC Symbols,
ancient language (carving, painting, writing )
Replica of Lascaux Cave Painting
Early communication systems were
painted on cave walls, etched in stone, and written on
scrolls and papyrus. As European civilization developed
into the fifteenth century, skilled craftsmen (usually
monks) spent hours carefully replicating and illuminating
and new texts into manuscripts so that they might be
preserved and shared through generations. These manuscripts
were supplemented by the addition of elaborate decoration
or illustration. Illuminated
manuscripts took a long
time to complete; consequently they only circulated among
clergy and wealthy elites.
Manuscripts 1455 Gutenberg Press
This literary and religious elitism
came to an end with the invention of the printing press
Gutenberg in 1445. The press gave the Western
European community at large an opportunity to interpret
information for themselves. Imagery and illustration
slowly fell by the way side within these printed texts.The
printing press revolutionized early European communication,
culture, and knowledge systems
because it allowed for a much faster, more efficient
reproduction of texts. Books and literacy quickly gained
in popularity resulting in what is referred to by scholars
as a culture shift. The printing press brought about
revolutionizing changes spawning literacy, scholarship,
political empowerment, literary art, and the ability
to individually consume information.
in the 21st Century
Today our educational system primarily shares information
through print, however, text is slowly being displaced
from its dominance in our communication methods.
New communication innovations such as the World Wide Web
are challenging traditional forms of print communication
(newspapers, books, etc.) just as the printing press challenged
image based communication in the fifteenth century.
Recent developments in technology have
instigated a reversal in the separation of text from
the image as our economy is increasingly dependant on
the ability to communicate quickly and globally. Information
communicated via digital imagery can
more quickly communicate complex data. Links between
visual, oral, and textual
communication methods are therefore the most proficient
method for communicating information. Image based mechanisms
of communication such as television, film, photography,
and the internet are the current preferred mediums by
which our society broadcasts our culture. Text based
literacy skills such reading, writing, counting, and
text memorization are still vital skills in our society
and must be included in our educational curriculum.
However, visual analysis skills are
also becoming a vital communication need that must be
taught in schools.
literacy is the term used for this new form
of communication understanding. Visual literacy is
defined by the International
Visual Literacy Association as "a group of
vision competencies a human being can develop by seeing
at the same time
having and integrating other sensory experiences. The
development of these competencies is fundamental to
normal human learning. When developed, they enable
literate person to discriminate and interpret the visual
actions, objects, and/or symbols, natural or man-made,
that are [encountered] in [the] environment. Through
the creative use of these competencies, [we are] able
to communicate with others. Through the appreciative
use of these competencies, [we are] able to comprehend
and enjoy the masterworks of visual communications
(Fransecky & Debes, 1972, p.7)."
Educators have a responsibility to teach students how to
discern from the wealth of images directed at them daily:
what is true, false, and opinion. This is known as imagery
decoding, it equips students with the skills needed to
discover patterns and relationships in visual communications
so that they may construct meaningful knowledge in the
context of imagery.
Although visual literacy is not yet
federally mandated to be taught and measured through
standardized testing in our educational system, it
is an essential and growing proficiency that will determine
how effectively one navigates communication
contemporary society. Visual
literacy skills can
be integrated into a regular classroom curriculum or
the eager learner. Online digital projects such as
The Publishers Bindings Online Project are an ideal
tool for teaching visual comprehension. Teachers can
visual literacy syntax into their standard History,
Language Arts, Communication or Fine Arts curriculum.
Analyzing the publishers bindings
images and their connected historical significance allows
students to objectively acquire a new set of skills
needed to successfully interpret and communicate visual
information. Students will also be able to transfer
these new skills into active communication transactions
which will enable them to have a deeper, richer, more
of images in their present society.
Visual analysis or decoding involves interpreting and creating
meaning from visual information. The same standardized
methods that are used in extracting meaning from written
or verbal texts, such as letters, words, spelling, grammar,
and syntax are needed for interpreting visual cues. The
compositional sources for everything visual can be found
in the most basic visual elements and design principles.
Active construction is the term used to label the process
seeing, processing, analyzing,
and, constructing meaning from visual images. Visual
communication is not limited to visible data; it includes
subjective processing where-in critical thinking works
to collaborate with perception and cognition.
|Dot: a pointer, marker
form, can either stand alone or create an edge where
two lines meet
| Shape: the
basic outlines which create a form such as the circle,
triangle, and square
Hue: the presence or absence of light, the
lightness or darkness of a color, also known as
Direction: all lines
have a direction; horizontal (calm), vertical (balance),
or oblique (movement or action).
the intensity of a specific hue based on a range
of gradation scale: from the most vivid hue of a
color to the mutest hue of a color
| Texture: visual
or physical surface characteristic of a shape such
as rough, smooth, soft, hard, glossy etc.
relationship of the area occupied by one shape to
that of another, aslo known as perspective
Principles of Design:
|Rhythm: the regular repetition
of elements of art of produce the look and feel of
movement. An artist creates movement in illustration
by repeating colors, shapes, lines, or textures.
a viewer’s eye through the work, usually
to a focal point. Depicts a change in the position
of a body relative to a reference point
Balance: there are three forms of balance; regular, asymmetrical,
and radial. Balance is the overall weight of a
and Unity: harmony in painting is the visually
satisfying effect of combining similar, related
elements. Adjacent colors on the color wheel, similar
use of repetition of an element such as color, or
shape creates interest, emphasis, and variety
abrupt, unexpected change in a visual element. Contrast
can be created thorough value, color, texture, and
These elements and principals of design
contain the basic resources necessary to achieve and
comprehend all levels of visual communication. Educators
will want to integrate this vocabulary into their lessons
when discussing the Publishers’ Bindings Images.
Resources based on Publishers' Bindings Online
PBO Visual Literacy 6-12 lesson plan: Word
document or PDF
Berger, J.1990. Ways
of Seeing. London:
Chauvin, M.Ed. 2003.Visual
or Media Literacy? Journal of Visual Literacy, 23.2 (Autumn):119-128.
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Respect: Visual Media Literacy and Students’ Understanding
and Technology Issues. Journal of Visual Literacy,24.2
Elizabeth. 2005. The
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York: Cambridge University Press.
Finkelstein, David and Alistair, McCleery.
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Matusitz, Jonathan, M.A. 2005.The
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on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago:
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for the Integration of Technology in Education. 1.1:10-19
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and Irene Benedict Visual Literacy Collection
Future of the book
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Visual Studies Workshop
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Literacy and Children’s
Visual Literacy and Pedagogy
International Visual Literacy Association