Western Sydney University: The art of visual communication

Visual communication — the act of making your point through images and words — is one of the most sought-after abilities in the world today.

We live in a time in which we are constantly bombarded with new information. Cutting through that noise and making an instant impact is exactly what every business in every global industry must achieve to get their true message out, and visual forms of communication are increasingly being recognised as the most effective way for this to happen.

Researchers have found that words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only readily retain about seven bits of information, give or take just one or two. Images on the other hand, are retained directly in your long-term memory where they’re often indelibly “etched.”

In one example of the power of visual communication, academics conducted research on the use of graphics in presentations and found that those who employ visuals are 43 percent more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t.

Employers are wising up to this realisation and capitalising on the benefits, making a degree in visual communication a gateway to a world of opportunity, spanning a vast array of industries and spheres. A great place to get that qualification is the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University (WSU).

Ranked in the top three percent of universities worldwide by Times Higher Education, WSU boasts a buzzing multicultural student experience with plenty of opportunity for entertainment and socialising.

As a modern university – ranked within the world’s top 100 young universities – WSU aims to combine vibrant, inspiring learning environments with world-class facilities, equipment and technology to enable you to gain practical experience and put learning into action, and on the Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication), that’s exactly what you get.

Underpinned by a foundation of graphic design, the program is delivered through a blend of creative and professional design approaches.

The School boasts state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities that are a creative student’s dream, including television and photography studios, journalism studios, and professional recording suites equipped with the latest digital audio technologies.

Their flagship design studio, known as ‘The Rabbit Hole’, is where Visual Communication students will spend a lot of their time. Final year students in this four-year course gain design practice in the professional learning environment. This award-winning space allows students to work on real-life projects with learning partners, developing solutions that have a material impact within industry and the community. And the benefits of this are tangible, as graduate Jennifer Noorbergen discovered for herself.

“Being able to work with real clients, with real deadlines, on real briefs has given us that extra level of experience for moving in to the industry,” she says.

The work carried out in the Rabbit Hole bridges the gap between your studies and working life so WSU graduates can demonstrate the skills needed to enter the workforce and become a valued member of any team.

Jennifer is a great example of this. As a final year student, she developed Kaleido, a printed publication that features people, projects and places that facilitate creativity and collaboration that is still going strong today.

Jennifer attributes much of her success to the experience and knowledge she picked up through her degree, especially the fourth professional year.


“At the end of three years you might feel like you’re ready to go out there but the fourth year gives you proper practical experience,” she says. “We do our fourth-year studio in the Rabbit Hole and actually work on real client briefs, and getting your first real taste of collaborating with a team is absolutely essential before you get into the workforce.”

Past clients of the Rabbit Hole include Sydney Water, Penrith Regional Gallery and Lifeline. But it’s not just industry people that they work with; WSU students are also making a difference on important community issues.

A recent project undertaken by Visual Communication students was in collaboration with Paramatta City Council in which students were tasked with discovering how to encourage community participation in a number of public spaces in and around Paramatta.

The varied nature of the course also ensures students get all the essential skills needed to be effective in the field, making them highly sought-after by employers. Current student Cara found the wide variety of topics kept her on her toes and made the course both captivating and exciting.

“We do a lot of practical work. We are constantly doing different assignments with different topics,” she says. “We could be doing typography and photography and web design all in the same day so it’s very hands-on, your brain is constantly working and you’ve got to be very adaptive.”

The practical and varied approach the School takes to learning is obviously paying off as they count some notable successes amongst their alumni, including Luke Martin who is now Creative Director at the headquarters of Facebook, Silvana Azzi-Heras who is Head Designer at Bazmark Inq, Liam Cameron who is Design Manager at City of Sydney, and Jonathon Kwok, Digital Designer at Saatchi & Saatchi.

With a solid foundation from WSU, Visual Communications graduates are finding design solutions to issues that affect people’s lives, working on projects that are seen the world over, and leaving their creative mark on the world.


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