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Visual Culture Meaning for Humanity

Humans are visual creatures; the vast majority of information we receive and the process is visual. Therefore, a significant portion of culture relies on visual symbols and icons to convey meaning. In many ways, visual symbols are used to construct the identities of individuals and entire nations alike (Arraes, 2014). National flags, icons of political movements, university emblems, or even a brand logo, are all visual symbols closely associated with greater things. These symbols have the power to unite or divide people behind causes (Richardson, 2015). Moreover, symbols are part of society’s visual culture, carrying a variety of meanings or connotations.

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A designer creating visual artifacts enters a complex relationship with the visual culture within which he or she operates. Whatever he or she designs will use some of the symbols — which can be as broad as a color — that will influence the overall perception of the artifact. However, the artifact may then influence visual culture in return, altering the existing meanings of its constituent symbols or creating new ones (Yoon & Jang, 2016). Thus, design plays a critical part in visual production, as the complicated cause and effect relationship between existing symbols and new objects must always be considered.

When creating symbols meant to represent something, such as logos or emblems, one must not only design the symbol’s perceived meaning but its relationship with its physical and cultural surroundings. For instance, one can design an icon to stand out among its neighbors or the greater visual culture of the area or to be similar to the same neighbors. Both approaches can have positive or negative effects on the icon’s perception; thus, choosing one of them becomes another critical factor in visual production design. Ultimately, although visual production is an artistic process, deliberate design is critical to it.


Arraes, M. A. D. (2014). American visual culture in Brazilian media. International Journal of the Image, 4(2), 119-127.

Richardson, C. (2015). Wet paint: Visual culture in a changing Britain – A round table debate. Visual Culture in Britain, 16(1), 103-117.

Yoon, S. Y., & Jang, M. K. (2016). Creation of visual culture in Seoul business signboards: The Seoul good sign contest, 2009–2013. The Design Journal, 20(2), 199-217.

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