What is Visual Literacy?

Kelly-Ann Denton
Visual Literacy is the ability to think, communicate and make connections visually, symbolically and spatially. It is not necessarily verbal communication. It is more complex than that so it provides a depth of knowledge and meaning - "a picture paints a thousand words".

Picture-thinking is very important because thinking in pictures triggers more centres throughout our brain and makes more connections across our brain than thinking in words alone. This is specifically the composition of "creative thinkers". 

Visual thinking fuels abstract connections and concepts which culminates in creativity. Visuals are significant drivers in inciting emotion, wonder, instigating action, and achieving superior memory retention. 

When we draw our ideas and think in pictures, we generate ideas that are non-sequential, place-based and connected in multiple ways. This is critical for the imagination.


Vision is our dominant sense. Therefore developing visual skills makes sense. It's not exclusively visual art, nor graphic design or any other specific visual discipline. Visual literacy enjoys aspects of many visual processes including visualisation (internal and external) and imagination (mind's eye).

Visualisation in scientific creativity has been frequently cited. Einstein often spoke of using visualisation on his experiments. He [saw] in his imagination first and created equations later. This is a common occurrence for scientists, even those without special training. Visual literacy encourages new ways of thinking about human problems. Visual thinking can also be applied to, creative writing, comedy, mathematics and virtually all concepts. Visual capabilities dramatically increase the ability to solve problems, and think creatively because it's abstract and non-linear.
visual thinking

Thoughts and ideas need to be externalised in order to create the neural pathways necessary for innovative, imaginative minds. When we talk and think in words we generate ideas that are sequential and linear. We want to be able to add additional skill sets to our use of language and comprehension. Visual thinking and visual literacy help us to develop "whole brain thinking".

Visual Capabilities Include
  • Seeing, Looking, Observing, Watching
  • Inner Vision (insight, foresight, hindsight, oversight)
  • Imagination (using the mind’s eye)
  • Externalising ideas as graphs, maps, data visualisation
  • Visual Mapping (connecting ideas spatially)
  • Visualisation (internal & external)
  • Presentation Skills (visual storytelling)
  • Innovating (seeing possibilities)
  • Engaging with VR, AR & 3D and other visual digital technologies
  • Meditation (observing the self)
  • Comprehension (processing what we see)
  • Decoding (communication)
  • Appreciating or making visual art and/or visual communication

"If I can't picture it,
I can't understand it"

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The V (visual) series of courses are part of a cluster of imagination/visual learning disciplines that form a turning point in imagination training. 
V1_The Neuroscience of Imagination lays the foundation for a better understanding of what creativity is and how to develop it. It is also the beginning of visual learning.
V1 to V4 follow on from each other in order to build on skills as participants journey through the imagination learning process.
These thinking processes directly affect our ability to be better critical thinkers and absolutely develop our ability to be imaginative and therefore more creative.
So, if you want to develop creative and critical thinking begin developing your visual skills.
You can start with The V Series and build up knowledge and skills at your own pace.

The Visual School

The V Series equips teachers and imagination seekers with the knowledge and skills to inspire students and explore their own imagination. Visual skills help us to see more possibilities.

Steiner School

The S Series are Steiner programs that support teachers to grow their own and their students’ imaginations and skills that facilitate the development of ethical & sustainable living environments.

National Art School

The Visual Mind and The Imagination is a 6 week program run via Zoom at the National Art School.  Alumni can continue to develop their concepts and creations via this portal after graduating from NAS.

Guest Speaking

imagineer.me conducts 90min Blasts that provide schools, universities and workplaces broad knowledge on the development of critical and creative thinking skills. We can also be booked to your brief.