Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
J 204
Course Title:
Visual Communication for Media
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Covers the theory and application of visual communication in media. Develops visual literacy and media skills for message creators/consumers. Critically examines visual message components, goals, effects and ethical practices. This course is also offered as COMM 204; a student who enrolls in this course a second time under either designator will be subject to the course repeat policy. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Apply visual literacy skills to diverse media.
  2. Understand visual principles, codes and cues as well as visual message components used to create meaning.
  3. Recognize and critically evaluate visual messages in different media to understand the effect they have on individual and societal values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
  4. Understand visual approaches in media messages designed to reach specific communication goals.
  5. Assess current and emerging digital visual media technologies for their strengths, weaknesses, differences and limitations in order to make informed choices for a specific project or audience.
  6. Understand the ethical responsibilities of both consumers and creators of visual mediated messages.

Course Activities and Design

Student activities might include:

•    Individual reading assignments

•    Small and large group discussions

•    Think-Pair-Share

•    Lecture wrapper (students identify three important concepts from lecture)

•    Selection of representative examples from media

•    Creation and/or analysis of visual messages

•    Critical thinking activities

•    Response papers

Instructor activities might include:

•    Lecture or mini lecture

•    Presentation of exemplar or controversial works

•    Videos

•    Case studies

•    Guided discussion

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Forms of assessment will be determined by the individual instructor and may include:

  • Examinations
  • Essays
  • Research or analysis papers
  • Portfolios
  • Case studies
  • Oral presentations
  • Journals
  • In-class participation
  • Projects
  • Group work

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  • Visual perception
  • Visual cues
  • Visual communication codes/theories
  • Visual literacy
  • Visual persuasion
  • Visual communication analysis - various perspectives
    • Personal
    • Historical
    • Technical
    • Ethical
    • Cultural
    • Critical
  • Visual communication components
    • Typography
    • Photography
    • Graphics/ Graphic design
    • Informational graphics
    • Video and digital imagery and graphics
  • Editing
  • Traditional and new/digital media 

Students will be able to:

             •   Describe the visual perception process

  • Understand visual cues such as color, form, depth, movement and their effect on meaning/messages
  • Understand visual theories -- such as gestalt, constructivism, semiotics, cognitive theory -- to help decode visual messages
  • Analyze visual strategies and principles in different media from different perspectives
  • Understand why visual literacy is important, especially in journalism and communication fields
  • Apply concepts of visual communication to reach communication goals in different media
  • Understand the effectiveness and limitation of both traditional and new/digital media
  • Use an ethical lens to both create and evaluate visual messages