Language and Linguistics

Graphic language characteristics and types examples

Graphic language

Graphic language is one type of communication using graphics, images, and mathematical expressions to express and convey thoughts or ideas. The drawing, specifically, the cave paintings of the Upper Paleolithic, stands out as one of man’s first attempts to transcend through this type of language. Graphic language characteristics and types

After these prehistoric manifestations and as it evolved, man sought more advanced ways to communicate. In this quest, he was able to perfect both spoken and written language. However, he always resorted to graphic language to express the most complex ideas.

Thus, since its inception, graphic language has been closely linked to the development of civilization. It was used to express beauty and feelings in the great Renaissance paintings. It also set the tone for explaining new ideas, theories and discoveries through mathematical formulas, theorems and diagrams.

In the last 300 years, it has become indispensable to the human race, sometimes over and above spoken and written languages. With the advancement of computing and cybernetics, this type of language has become the interface for video game applications and other computer specialties.

Characteristics of graphic language

Ease and speed

It has many advantages in relation to the rest of the languages. On the one hand, it is easier to read and interpret than the set of symbols and codes of written language.

On the other hand, the level of demand for short-term human memory is lower. The latter guarantees that the messages are understood more quickly and with less use of the cognitive resource.


Graphic language is a universal language. This one does not depend on a particular language. The drawings, formulas or graphs that are generated in one country can be used perfectly in any other country. Graphic language characteristics and types

In this sense, the globalization of recent times has been partly possible thanks to the universality of this type of message. Signs and graphic indications have aided in the development of policies and actions in different parts of the world. For example, the red cross and UN signs are recognized almost anywhere on the planet.

On the other hand, the advancement of technology has introduced signs and messages in graphic language to facilitate the use of new technologies. The messages on the control panels in automobiles, machinery and appliances are part of this new use of language.

High impact

Both oral and written communication have a support for their dissemination in graphic language. For this reason, in the vast majority of cases, visual aids help to understand the content.

Sometimes pictures and illustrations have a stronger impact than words. Visual communication makes people more involved and connected. It can instantly show what in words would take the longest to explain.


Graphic language is simultaneous, all symbols and their relationships are presented at the same time in the messages. In this it differs from verbal language where the messages have a beginning, an intermediate part and an end.

Higher costs

Messages produced using graphic language can be more expensive. Unlike other communication channels, such as oral communication, it uses more resources.

On the other hand, the cost of storing information produced by graphic means is also high. Finally, the process of creating graphic content requires more time and effort, which translates into higher costs.


In general terms, the typological expressions of graphic language are diverse. Illustrations, animations, symbols and logos can be highlighted in different textures and colors.

In addition, advances have resulted in, among others, interactive web designs. Tables, graphs, sketches and drawings are also part of this typology.

However, the fundamental types of graphic language are reduced to five: illustrative, artistic, graphic design, typographic and photographic. Each of them will be described below.


The illustrative is characterized by its accurate representation of reality. This form of graphic language is descriptive, elaborate, and highly detailed.

The treatment of reality in this type of language is that of reproduction. Its interpretive load is minimal or non-existent. Graphic language characteristics and types


In this type of graphic language, reality is idealized and simplified. The sender of the message recreates the materiality that surrounds it, styling it to make it more striking or suggestive.

The referent (reality to which the message refers) is synthesized and clearly recognized. Its interpretative load is greater than in the illustrative type.

Graphic design

Graphic design does not reproduce or recreate reality but rather interprets it, inventing a new reality. He resorts to geometry and flat colors to outline and hardly recognizes the referent or only belongs to the realm of ideas. The interpretive load in this type is maximum.


In this type of graphic language, the figures and images give their prominence to the texts and symbols. These are artistically presented in ingenious and attractive shapes, sizes and arrangements. As in graphic design, in typographic design the interpretative load is maximum.


Photographic-like graphic language uses the resources of photography. The representation of reality in this case is reliable. It is played with all the variations that photographic techniques allow.

In the same way, it allows the use of photomontage. And it can be integrated as a complementary part of any of the types described above.



Within the field of illustrative types of graphic language, sketches, illustrations of encyclopedias and mathematical graphics of textbooks can be mentioned.

It also includes diagrams, schematic drawings and all those drawings or graphs through which an attempt is made to represent reality.


All the great works of the great masters belong to this typology. The set of techniques (oil, frescoes, watercolors, and many others) are examples of this type of graphic language. They can be works in two and three dimensions (sculptures).

Graphic design

The graphic design includes serigraphs, logos and creative advertising. Similarly, traffic notices, signs, signs in ports, airports, hospitals, among others, belong to this type.

In the field of creative advertising, personalized stationery and animations ( motion graphics ) can be highlighted .


Within this type of graphic language are the covers of books, posters and catalogs, among others. With the advancement of the media, typography has spread to other fields such as maps, labels, texts on household appliances, LCD screens for telephones and portable video games.


All photographic works belong to this group regardless of their technique or practical purpose. With the development of the photographic technique, television and cinema have been incorporated into this type of work. Subsequent evolutions of the media have brought photography through electronic media. Graphic language characteristics and types

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