It’s Lit(erate)

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Visual literacy: the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.

This semester, I signed up for Visual Communication, a class meant to fulfill one of my journalism elective credits. I wasn’t sure what I was signing up for, I just really needed to graduate on time. So here I am in a visual literacy class. The best way to describe it? Re-learning how to look at pictures. Re-learning how to look at everything, really.

Our first assignment was to do a photo shoot anywhere, taking pictures using the laws we learned in class and choosing one image to submit. While most of my classmates took pictures on hiking trails or their backyards, I did the classic Alex thing and did my photo shoot inside an Ulta Beauty store. Doing homework by shopping, because I can. #multitasking

Multitasking is a thing, by the way. Don’t ever let a professor tell you it isn’t.

So there I was on my beauty run, looking for color-correcting primer and salon shampoo and eyebrow kits and face brushes and all the other things I never bought before I interned with Ulta Beauty. And while I looked, I took pictures. The store associates probably thought I was just a beauty-obsessed customer taking pictures for an Instagram post or something. Which, you know, wasn’t too far from the truth.


See how your eye follows the brushes back toward the end of the store? BAM. The Gestalt law of continuity. Look at that visual literacy.


Rimmel London Moisture Renew lipstick, if you didn’t already guess it. Look at that Diva Red popping out to take center stage, even in a display full of identical lipsticks. You notice it right away, from its proximity to the viewer.

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NYX. Law of similarity: Our eye groups these velvet matte glosses together because the tops all form the same circle. Like a Connect Four board, except better.

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Couldn’t leave the store without catching a shot of the Urban Decay Vice Lipstick display. It’s a perfect matchup of color– you can go from the tester name, to the plastic lipstick art, to the actual lipstick, up to the boxes.

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This was when the store associates started asking me whether I needed help.

The coolest part was that I took these images in a store, where you aren’t trying to see anything in a new way.

You just want to get in, do your shopping, and get out. Beauty stores are a little different, since half the fun is browsing and trying shades on, but in the end you aren’t trying to look for cool visual patterns or different perspectives. You’re not there for the view. So when doing this photo shoot project, I was able to walk away with a new appreciation for the way we interpret everything we see.

And some new mascara. Not bad for homework.




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