The Importance of Developing a Visual Language

Are emojis the modern-day hieroglyphs? Since the invention of the smartphone; images, gifs, symbols, icons, and emojis have quickly started taking the place of written word. Visual expression in these forms can cross over traditional language barriers and serve as a universally understood language. They also serve an extremely important purpose to businesses. Companies aspire to create their own visual language through the identifying features of their brand. Many icons associated with logos are widely recognized without the need for text or the company name to understand who is being represented.

The customer experience is also becoming heavily visual. Think of Uber, Google, and Airbnb: these companies want the feel of a utility, fit for purpose, to be a tool as much as a company emblem. Aside from the actual ride with your Uber driver, or communicating with the host of an Airbnb, the tools these companies have created are mostly a digital experience. You are not developing relationships with the people behind these large and successful companies, you form your opinion on these companies based off of the user experience created through sensory, type, icons, sliding windows and graphics. If you don’t like these and how they work, you go elsewhere. The “personality” of a company that lives online is almost entirely communicated through graphics, color, type, & layout. This means that their design needs to be created with a lot of thought and care. The same can and should be said about every business’s brand and collateral. It’s 2016 and visuals are MAJOR KEY.

ap_thompson-emojiNow back to emojis, also known as emoticons. They encapsulate the purpose of both symbols and icons but expand upon them by being able to express emotions and ideas. Chances are, there is the perfect gif or emoji out there to send when you just ~can’t even~ articulate. Brands and celebrities are cashing in on this desire to express emotion without words. If you want to tell your friends you’re pumped about your weekend plans, a Kimoji of Kim Kardashian twerking can get that message across. If you’re feeling flirty and also want a beverage, Coca-Cola AND Pepsi have just the bottles of soda you NEED to “say it with a […either of them].” Coke even went so far as to release their own emoji keyboard in late 2015. Custom emojis are a whole new frontier for designers…however, I do not support every company going out and creating their own emojis. Notwithstanding, it is incredibly important that they stay in the know with emoji culture to stay relevant in a generation where social media is king.

This age of rapidly increasing visual communication is a great time for designers. We now get to say even more with icons, designing them to be suited to different brands and using them to evoke a multitude of feelings. This trend has definitely opened up the playground we get to work in, which is a great thing for expanding our creativity.

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