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Words are symbols — visual representations of verbal language. The meaning behind a word is dependent on several things, including the origin language and the context in which the word is used. Visual messages that use words as the primary vehicle of information are most effective when the representation of meaning goes beyond the letterforms themselves. This entails making connections between the verbal characteristics of the words (cultural meaning, dialect, inflection, etc.) and the intended meaning when the words were used. The ability to make these connections is incredibly valuable to those who use text to communicate with others, especially when unaccompanied by verbal explanations. In order to help students better understand these complexities, they must become interpreters of the language being spoken around them. The “Overheard” project prompts graphic design students to do just that. To get them started, students are asked to listen intently to what is said to them and around them, recording the most interesting statements they hear, over the course of one week. Ultimately, they must choose one statement to analyze more fully and translate into a visual interpretation of the statement. This project can be adapted to a short exercise to assist students in any course that involves visual presentations, including business, marketing, history, sociology, anthropology, and communications.

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Las Vegas (Nev.)

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UNLV Office of Faculty Affairs




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Overheard: Connecting Verbal Language to Visual Meaning