Visual Language is a facilitation technique using (typically hand drawn) pictures in combination with words to convey clearer meaning.
The exercise of using a Visual Language Technique not only produces a visual representation of the topic but a deeper shared understanding of the topic itself.
Here, we are not talking about Visual Programming Languages, like Visual Basic - which are a different topic altogether.
The pictures can be drawn by professionals, but often as simply drawn by meeting participants. They need not be complex or beautiful. They merely need to illustrate a concept or key point that: - would be difficult to articulate using words alone. - generates thought and conversation around the topic. - focuses the meeting participants on the value being created
- Gather existing information about your topic.
- Outline goals for your workshop.
- Select an artist from your group.
- Create a first draft drawing of the topic (create multiple pictures using multiple artists if needed).
- Refine the picture(s) based on feedback from the group (see questions below)
- As you discuss changes to each picture, create discussion within the group that creates a deeper understanding of the topic itself. Ask: who, what, when, where, why questions.
- Agree on a single picture that best represents what the group is trying to say to the target audience.
As we draw pictures, we consider the purpose, the audience, and the topic. This is similar to what we do when we read text or listen to speech. When using Visual Language as a facilitation technique ask your group:
With each question asked, your group understanding of the picture and the underlying topic should grow and become more unanimous.
- What is the picture about?
- What is the main focus of attention in the picture? How do we know?
- What are the codes and conventions (elements of the picture) that help give it meaning.
- What effects do these design elements have on the reader?
- What clues (implied characteristics or emotions) do the visual language features give or have on the reader?
- What are the limitations of the combination of pictures and text in terms of conveying meaning?
- How can we tell who made created the picture and why? This question investigates who produced the text and why and the choice and evolution of production practices.
- How do the visual, written, and oral texts interrelate and support each other?
- Is this visual language meant to represent reality or an exaggeration? This question refers to how "true" a text is and how we know.
- Who is the target audience of this picture? Is it who it should be?
- How might the picture be useful to that audience?
References Every Picture Tells a Story, by Projects@Work
Examples of Visual Language Technique from Visual Protocol
Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century
Visual Grammar: A Design Brief