Visual Literacy, Beyond Linguistic Communication: A Collaborative Research Project

  • December 16, 2013
  • By Jeanette Kulju     
Study visual communication by creating instructional materials for point-of-use water purification technology in South Africa


Director: Trudy L. Cole, Coordinator and Professor of the Graphic Design Program, James Madison University
Partner/Collaborator: James A. Smith (Civil & Environmental Engineering) Director of PureMadi, University of Virginia.

This collaborative project will combine the interest and expertise of faculty from two 4-VA institutions, increasing both universities’ competiveness and capacity. Professor Smith’s expertise in the development of the water treatment system and his advanced knowledge of the African culture will significantly enhance Professor Cole’s research on the subject. Professor Cole’s graphic design contributions and research in visual communication will provide practical implementation knowledge to the end-user, thus enhancing the success of the PureMadi project and product. Support materials will be used at both universities.

After this project was approved, Dr. Smith submitted a companion 4_VA grant at UVA for the reproduction expenses, and it was approved at the end of October.

The mission of this grant is to study non-linguistic communication, namely visual communication. The study will be tested and ultimately materialize in the form of label instructions and an information pamphlet for the PureMadi’s point-of-use water purification system. The knowledge gained, project documentations and PowerPoint presentation of the process will be used as a case study for a unit plan and project on visual communication in James Madison University’s GRPH 206 Design Methodology course. The PowerPoint presentation will also be provided to James Smith for educational purposes at the University of Virginia and for presentation at PureMadi’s Annual Fundraiser, February 2014.

GRPH 206: Introduction to Typography – An introduction to the study of letter forms for their aesthetic and communicative value. Typographic fundamentals of alphabet history, type classification, printing technology effects, font design, visual space, hierarchy and grid systems will be explored.

Type of Grant: Study of visual literacy as a form of communication, as demonstrated in the creation of instructional and informational materials for a point-of-use water purification technology for the residents of Limpopo Province, South Africa. Also, this grant will enable the creation of teaching and presentation materials for JMU, UVA and specifically JMU’s GRPH 206 Design Methodology course.