21st Century Learning: The Value of a Visual Education

Illustrator and artist Mark Hughes outlines the benefits of studying visual art and design.

Humans have been communicating visually since (at least) the Paleolithic Era, so it’s a small wonder that I found myself drawing at quite a young age. I just didn’t realize that I was actually communicating. Most children draw but it was not encouraged as a skill so most people tend to drop it on their road to adulthood. Some of us decided not to grow up (or old) and kept honing our abilities to communicate through pictures. We eventually became film makers, illustrators, designers, etc.

The world is more visual now than when I was a young man (sometime after the Paleolithic, I assure you).  A visual education is more valuable now than ever before. The internet revolution spawned a need for media content and much of that content creation is visual. Creativity and innovation are needed now more than ever.

The world of education is changing to catch up with innovations and is now embracing the teaching of 21st Century skills. Creativity and innovation have become a new focus and learning idea creation techniques opens the door to a more visual way of communicating whether that be in the form of charts, graphs or more illustrative infographics. Visual Literacy has become a skill on its own where abstract thoughts can be translated to more tangible graphic forms. This is not simply drawing pictures. Information must be evaluated, strategized and translated into a clear image based message.

The modern world moves at a quick pace and the current information must be served up as rapidly as it is consumed. If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, think of the time savings involved in producing information based imagery. Infographics and data visualization have become hot commodities.

When delivering media messages there is little room for confusion. With visual input enhancing the written word, there is less chance of misinterpretation. Consider cross-cultural communication now that our globe is networked across borders. Your audience may not speak or read your language but they can understand your graphic images. The visual world is an experience shared equally by all. The visual world is where our cultural differences tend to thin out.