Visual communication in the 21st Century: Pictures, stickers, and memes

6 minutes

Can you imagine a world without traffic lights, drawings, gummy bears, or Wes Anderson films? It would be a dystopian universe without visual communication: gray, boring, bland. This is what the world would be like without the things that, through the power of sight, allow us to understand the things around us. 

Visual communication is everywhere. It is direct, effective, universal… the whole package. It’s also an extremely powerful tool for conveying information and messages effectively. As you may have noticed by now, we are fans. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, and you’ll see why we get all gushy and googly-eyed when we talk about visual communication.

What is visual communication? 

First things first: let’s define the term. Visual communication is an effective way to convey information and messages in a clear and concise manner. 

In our digital world, visual communication plays an increasingly important role due to its ability to attract and maintain attention and stick around in the audience’s mind for a loooong time. You could say it’s the Jessica Rabbit of storytelling tools.  

It’s worth noting that ⅓ of the world’s business leaders prefer to communicate using visuals and want their companies to use them at a corporate level as well.  

So, what needs to happen in order to make visual communication successful? Well, this may be stating the obvious but a clear and concise message is not enough. Factors such as color, interactivity, and even the shape can be defining factors that enable us to communicate a message in an appealing way. 

That is why the balance between information and design is key. 

Types of visual communication 

As with most other things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all option. In this case, the type you’ll want to use depends on the function of the message. 

Emotional. Who here hasn’t been moved by a photo of adorable puppies? The purpose of this type of visual communication is clear: to convey an emotion. Proceed with caution; we’re no doctors but if you don’t feel immeasurable tenderness when you see this picture, you probably don’t have a heart.

Meme kitty love
📷 Meme of an adorable kitten

Factual. Getting attention is its mission in life. We are all more than familiar with this type of content. Everyone recognizes a ‘warning’ sign when they see one. 

Poster picture: Warning Genius at work
📷 University student poster

Informative. Speaks for itself really. These are messages whose purpose is to inform. Like a sign or a photograph in a newspaper, for example.

Stonewall Riots
📷 Stonewall Riots

Exhortative. Or persuasive, to its friends. Its goal is to convince people of something. I’m sure you can guess where you might find this type of visual communication: advertising, YouTube ads, posters, brochures, etc.

Anuncio Apple Iphone
📷 Apple ad

Aesthetic. Its sole purpose is beauty. This type of image can be found in films, art, performances, etc. Its purpose is purely artistic or aesthetic.

Fotogramas película 'Ameliè'
📷 Stills from ‘Amélie’

Visual communication and marketing: The story of a mad love affair

If visual communication has such an influence on our daily lives, marketing is undoubtedly a significant part of that. Simply put: marketing is NOTHING without visual communication because it plays an essential role in achieving its objectives. How? Well, like this:

Engage your audience

We can put a song on loop until our headphones go up in smoke and even fall in love with a text, but what we have with images is a whole other level: starry-eyed doesn’t even begin to cover it. 

Images have the ability to capture and persuade audiences because they connect directly with emotions. They can even establish strong emotional bonds because they go straight to the subconscious and connect with the values and beliefs of the audience in a flash. 

Don’t believe me? Tell me this interactive image doesn’t make you want to find out more. 


Art Infographic

Convey the brand identity

A picture is worth a thousand words (I bet you were wondering how long before I whipped out that old nugget, weren’t you?). Images carry subjective information that is capable of conveying sensations that are difficult to explain. 

That’s why visual communication is one of the best possible ways to convey personality, values, principles, and branding.


Genial report

Inform at the speed of light

Did you know that the human brain can process images in 13 milliseconds? Let’s face it: when we are in the vortex of daily life we need speedier communication and in that regard, images have the upper hand. 

Images and graphics such as infographics or concept maps are capable of conveying complex data without wasting the audience’s time or losing their attention. 

Take a look at this one and soak up the info:


CPR Infographic

Stickers, GIFs, and memes, oh my! The visual communication of the 21st Century

In 1982, emoticons arrived on the scene with a bang. Since then, other forms of visual communication have emerged that allow us to translate the whole human emotional range onto screens and that also, as a side note, are just so me. 

This new form of visual communication is so effective because it responds to the need to share emotions practically instantaneously, which, considering we pay attention to the screen for an average of 47 seconds, was clearly very necessary indeed!

In addition, it has the ability to convey a feeling or situation in a very faithful way that is easy for the receiver to recognize. Your friend can tell you how her date went with a single click thanks to visual content like this. 

gif shaking head

This is the case because, among other things, all technology defines the course of a historical period. The advent of social media has brought about a paradigm shift in social and cultural dynamics, and even in language. We do not communicate in the same way today as we did 5 years ago due to social media.

While language used to be built on inherited patterns that were recreated and fed back into each other, that source of inspiration has migrated to popular culture. Books, movies, series, viral videos… the content we consume nowadays: Harry Potter, a Tiktok prank or dance challenge, or a Pedro Pascal meme collection.   

So much so that, according to specialists, 80% of communication today is non-verbal. This percentage is reinforced by technology which makes it possible to send stickers, memes, and GIFs that visually support what written language cannot convey. 

It’s a fact: gestures, creative thinking, and light communication have conquered our screens thanks to viralization and emotivity, and this has not gone unnoticed by brands and organizations.

Did you know the importance of visual communication for taking your content to the next level?

Marina López
Marina López
Writing works as a fight against chaos. Virginie Despentes

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