Why was
it designed?

A visual communication is a commercial product that is intended to perform in a particular way. Each visual communication is created for a reason. There are several different reasons for making of visual communications. The reasons are known as the purpose.


The VCAA Study design for Visual Communication Design (2018-22) defines purposes on p22, as to;

  • advertise,
  • promote,
  • identify,
  • depict,
  • teach,
  • inform,
  • guide

There are many other reasons why people communicate visually, for example to decorate, to express feelings, or commemorate events. However, this is the list for our study.

This page defines each purpose and gives a model analysis of each.


As our subject does not require students to make functioning prototypes, we are mindful of how we discuss the purpose of a visual communication. The photo at right shows a coffee percolator. The function of the percolator is to make coffee. However, the purpose of the photo is to depict and advertise it.

Similarly, the image at far right is a magazine advertisement. Its purpose is not to make coffee but to advertise.

When students are writing about the purpose of their own visual communications, they should refer to their purpose of their proposed presentation format. Therefore, it's likely they’re making presentations that depictpromote or advertise objects rather than make presentations that perform the function intended for the object itself.

By contrast, if an examination question asks a student to identify and/ or explain the function of a product, they should discuss what it actually does and not refer to the purpose of the image which would be to depict.

Euro Cuisine PER12 Stainless Steel Electric Coffee Percolator - 12 Cups.
1970s Sears coffee percolator add.
( /2013/07/kitchen-utensils.html)

model analysis

Diana, Naomi Watts, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2013.

sample question

Identify its purpose of the image at left and explain how one design element and one design principle support the purpose.

sample answer

The purpose of the poster shown at left is to advertise a movie about Princess Diana. Advertising the movie people will generate sales for the producers. Type and balance have been used effectively for the purpose. A fine serif type like those used in glamour magazines, has been used for on the poster. It is capitalised which eludes to the importance of Diana. The serifs complement the crown graphic, adorned with flourishes above Diana's name. A strong asymmetrical balance has been created by her face which is off-set to the right. This position, coupled with severe cropping of the left side of her face eludes to her difficult and sometimes dangerous life within the British Royal Family. The use of type and balance both refer to the role and position of Diana and support this image in its purpose as an advertisement for a figure who met with such immense tragedy.


The term demographics refers to facts about an audience. These are measurable details that characterise an audience apart from their attitudes, beliefs and interests.

We rarely find that a product is aimed at people of one age. It is more likely that they are aimed at people within a range of ages. Some examples of age ranges are;


Examples of advertisements

We rarely find that a product is aimed at people of one age. It is more likely that they are aimed at people within a range of ages. Some examples of age ranges are;

  • 0-3
  • 10-15
  • 18-25
  • 30-50
  • over fifties

model analysis

The poster at left is advertising apples. The fresh green apple contrasts strongly with a vibrant red background. The shine across the format emphasises the freshness. The information 'Apples' and price are presented clearly for the target audience. It is clearly intended for selling apples.


To promote is to present a product, service, idea, concept, belief or ideology for persuasion of an audience for the better of the individual, community or society as a whole. Promotion may be confused with advertising as the techniques are similar. However, the easy way to distinguish is to ask, does the visual communication lead directly to sales and financial gain? If not, it's likely to be promoting something.


Examples of promotional products

  • political campaign materials
  • Church posters
  • posters to engage audience in social issues
  • flyers to engage audience in healthy eating
  • symbols

model analysis

This poster at left is intended to promote apples by communicating the idea that eating them is healthy. It uses simple images composed of stylised shapes and bright contrasting colours. It also uses the metaphor of love hearts, hovering over eyes to show that eating apples bring health and happiness.


To identify is to enable easy recognition of a person, company or location. A written or visual mark like a logo is used to help people recognise a brand. Logos and other visual devices are often registered as trademarks to ensure exclusive use by the owner.


Examples of identifying products

  • logos
  • trademarks
  • colours
  • monograms
  • icon
  • signs
  • webpage banner
  • newspaper masthead
  • badges
  • heraldry and coats of arms
  • flags

model analysis

The presentation at left shows apple logos on clothing. They identify a company. Colour and simple shapes have been used to contrast with their background to enable instant recognition for this company.


To depict is to make an image or model of something. Depictions are often used in visual communications with other purposes.

Examples of depictions

  • freehand illustrations
  • two and three dimensional illustrations - 3rd Angle orthogonal, paraline and perspective drawings
  • paintings
  • prints
  • photographs
  • digital 3d models
  • holograms
  • video installations
  • models
  • dioramas
  • prototypes
  • mock-ups
  • schematic architectural drawings
  • pictograms
  • icons

model analysis

The illustration of an apple is intended to depict this lovely piece of fruit. It uses realistic colours, stylised shape and tone to represent form.


To teach is to facilitate learning. To teach usually involves simplifying information into a sequence or steps. To teach may be confused with to guide, and inform. One way to differentiate between them is to ask, does the visual communication explain something with a sequence?

Examples of teaching products

  • webpages (like this one)
  • magazine and book spreads
  • posters and wall charts
  • post cards
  • videos
  • models
  • digital apps
  • explanatory diagrams

model analysis

The chart at left is intended to teach someone how to peel, cut and eat slices of apple. It uses simple shapes and colours that contrast with the background to illustrate the process. Teaching how to peel, cut and eat has been broken down into steps. Symmetrical balance, contrast and figure-ground have been used to ensure clarity.


To inform is to provide information or facts. As distinct from to teach, to inform does not seek to enable learning but to communicate information such as a rule, date, or event.

Examples of informing products

  • posters
  • flyers
  • webpages
  • post cards
  • billboards
  • multi-media kiosk screens
  • brochures
  • map
  • symbol

model analysis

The image of a calendar page marked with an apple over a date is intended to inform the audience that this day is significant for apples. Colour has been used to emphasise the day with red that contrasts with the green.


To guide is to provide directions or information to assist someone to locate something. As distinct from to teach, to guide shows a member of the audience where something is and/ or how to find it in relation to other features. The goal is location not learning.

Examples of guides

  • maps
  • instructions
  • diagrams
  • websites and webpages
  • interactive multi-media kiosks
  • digital way-finding apps

model analysis

This fruit tour map is intended to guide members of an audience to an apple store. It uses line, shape and colour to create roads, a river and fruit shapes.