How Visually Literate Are You?

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How Visually Literate Are You? - Quiz

Knowing how to read and write makes you literate in the traditional sense of the word. But in an increasingly visual world, being visually literate is almost as important. With language, literacy is based on our ability to understand grammars, cultural conventions and nuances, syntax, vocabulary, and so forth. Visual literacy requires a similar understanding of conventions and rules for how we interpret images and design. Now's your chance to test your visual literacy skills!


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 

    Typography: Observe the signs in the image collage below. The font used for each of the signs has been labeled as the most hated and misused font of our time. Can you name the font?

  • 2. 

    Typography: Helvetica is the world’s most widely used font. Which of the following American companies uses Helvetica as its logo typeface?

    • A.

      Pepsi

    • B.

      Sears

    • C.

      Google

    • D.

      Apple

    Correct Answer
    B. Sears
    Explanation
    Sears is the correct answer. Helvetica, like many other typefaces, can be written in different sizes and weights. But you might be surprised to know that Helvetica can be found in nearly every corner of your life: on subway and freeway signs, on garbage trucks, even on the back of your car. Helvetica is also the official logo font for Toyota, Target, Jeep, Staples, Microsoft, American Airlines, Post-It, and hundreds of other major companies. Why? Helvetica is simple and very easy to read in any culture.

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  • 3. 

    Photography and Layout: Let’s assume Time Magazine wanted to publish a cover article entitled “Barack Obama: The Man behind the President.” Based on design theories about how people interpret personality, intelligence, sensuality, and other human characteristics from photos, one of the four pictures below would be best for communicating the appropriate message that Time would likely want. Which photo would be best for this article?

    • A.

      A

    • B.

      B

    • C.

      C

    • D.

      D

    Correct Answer
    B. B
    Explanation
    "B" is the correct answer. A design principle called the "Face-ism" ratio suggests that humans interpret more about a person's intelligence, character, and personality when viewing a picture where the face dominates the image. The more the face fills the space in a photo, the higher the face-ism ratio. The smaller a face gets in a photo, the more humans tend to focus on physical characteristics and sensuality. Considering the content of the article and the magazine, an image with a high face-ism ratio would be best.

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  • 4. 

    Color Saturation: According to color psychology theories, color saturation affects the way people interpret the personality of a brand. Based on color saturation, which of the following logos best communicates the collective ideas of “performance,” “efficiency,” “friendly,” and “professional?”

    • A.

      JPMorganChase

    • B.

      Wells Fargo

    • C.

      Golden West Credit Union

    • D.

      TD Bank

    Correct Answer
    C. Golden West Credit Union
    Explanation
    Golden West Credit Union is the correct answer. Bright, saturated colors are good for grabbing attention and expressing excitement and dynamism but they don't communicate "professionalism" as well. Dark, desaturated colors communicate serious, professional, and expedient but they don't tend to communicate "friendly." TD and Wells Fargo use saturated colors, which don't communicate professional and expedient. JPMorganChase uses desaturated dark colors, which negates friendliness. GoldenWest uses desaturated, bright colors, which captures the four emotional responses asked for in the question.

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  • 5. 

    Human Bias: Humans have a predisposed bias that causes them to inadvertently stereotype people with certain facial features as being naïve, innocent, helpless, and honest. Look at the images below. Imagine a person that didn’t know or recognize any of the people in the photographs. Based on these images alone and the facial features in each image, which of the four women would the person most likely be inclined to stereotype as naïve, innocent, helpless, and honest?

    • A.

      Ellen Page

    • B.

      Kristen Stewart

    • C.

      Keira Knightly

    • D.

      Jennifer Garner

    Correct Answer
    A. Ellen Page
    Explanation
    Ellen Page is the correct answer. Research has shown that humans have a fascinating (and disturbing) natural bias to assume people that have "baby-face" characteristics are more naive, innocent, helpless, and honest (and much less likely to commit a crime!) Baby-face characteristics include a high forehead, large eyes, short chin, lighter skin, small nose, and round features. Based on these images alone, Ellen Page has the most baby-faced characteristics and would likely be stereotyped as being more naive, innocent, helpless, and honest than the other actresses.

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  • 6. 

    Multicultural Color: Cultures around the globe use different colors to signify all kinds of emotions and ideas such as love, danger, and patriotism. In the United States, the concept of death is usually represented with the color black. What color similarly signifies death in India?

    • A.

      Blue

    • B.

      Purple

    • C.

      White

    • D.

      Red

    Correct Answer
    C. White
    Explanation
    White is the correct answer. Colors symbolize so many different things in each culture. We tend to use black in America as the color for sorrow when someone dies, but white is used in India. Did you know that in Asia, purple is considered a color for wealth? In the West, green is used for greed and being lucky, but in the East, green suggests fertility.

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  • 7. 

    Decision-making: Assume you want to sell jam to visitors in a shopping mall. On one end of the store you set up a booth and present passersby with 6 flavors of jam. On the other end of the mall, you set up another booth with 24 flavors of jam. Based on research about people making decisions when they see multiple options, which of the following is the most likely scenario when comparing visitor response to each booth?

    • A.

      More people will stop at the booth with 24 and a larger percentage of people will buy jam that that booth.

    • B.

      Fewer people will stop at the booth with 24 but a larger percentage of people will buy from that booth.

    • C.

      More people will stop at the booth with 6 and a larger percentage of people will buy from that booth.

    • D.

      Fewer people will stop at the booth with 6 but a larger percentage of people will buy from that booth.

    Correct Answer
    D. Fewer people will stop at the booth with 6 but a larger percentage of people will buy from that booth.
    Explanation
    The last answer is the correct answer. Research has repeatedly shown two quirky things about human beings: we like choices and we don't do well with them. The now famous "jam study" by researchers Iyenga & Lepper proved this. Apparently far more people would stop at the booth with 24 flavors of jam than the booth with 6. But far more people would actually BUY jam at the booth with 6 flavors. Options attract people, but options also make making a decision really hard for people--so hard in fact, most would prefer not to make a decision at all!

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  • 8. 

    Punctuation: Apostrophes are visual cues that clarify ownership and contractions of words. Which of the following Christmas card greetings accurately uses the apostrophe?

    • A.

      A

    • B.

      B

    • C.

      C

    Correct Answer
    C. C
    Explanation
    "C" is the correct answer. Remember: apostrophes are used in our language for primarily two things--possession and contractions. When you say "Merry Christmas from the Nelsons," NELSON is becomes a plural noun, but the Nelsons don't possess anything in this sentence. When a word ends in 's' or 'x,' we pluralize it by adding an 'es' at the end. So, in this instance, the season's greetings should come from the "Curtises." No kidding!

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  • 9. 

    Rule of Thirds: The Rule of Thirds is probably considered one of the most foundational principles in photography and film for creating dynamic and visually interesting images. Which of the following images best uses the Rule of Thirds?

    • A.

      A

    • B.

      B

    • C.

      C

    • D.

      D

    Correct Answer
    C. C
    Explanation
    "C" is the correct answer. According to this ever-popular and widely used principle, pictures and video become much more aesthetically appealing to the human eye when they are arranged in thirds. If you were to divide a picture up into thirds both horizontally and vertically, you would get 9 equal-sized rectangles and four intersections. Pictures that follow the principle best have the focal points right on (or really close to) one of the four intersections. The principle also suggests that a horizon line, if there is one, should land precisely on the lower or upper third line. In image C, the blue material on the boat and the setting sun both land on an intersection and the ocean horizon is right on the lower third line.

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  • 10. 

    Eye-Brain Perception: Look at the image below created by MIT Professor Edward H. Adelson and examine the two labeled squares. The square labeled 'B' is 

    • A.

      A lighter shade of gray than the square labeled ‘A’

    • B.

      The same shade of gray as the square labeled ‘A’

    • C.

      A darker shade of gray than the square labeled ‘A’

    Correct Answer
    B. The same shade of gray as the square labeled ‘A’
    Explanation
    The second answer is the correct answer. I know what you're thinking: not on my monitor! But if you were to take a strip of gray paper that was the same shade as 'A' and lay it across 'A' and 'B,' you would be amazed to see that both squares match. Or, you could take the photo into Photoshop and use the eyedropper tool; you'll get the same shade of gray whether you click on 'A' or 'B.' Your eyes and brain alone will never be able to tell that they are the same color, though. Our brain has a remarkable (and somewhat scary) ability to interpret and change the way we perceive things. So what does all this mean? We never really see what we think we see because our brain makes stuff up! (And if you don't trust this quiz on this one, go to the researcher, Edward H. Adelson's, website: http://persci.mit.edu/gallery/checkershadow.

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  • 11. 

    Wayfinding: In America, we have a color system for road signs. On a freeway, what color would the road sign be that identifies the exit for a baseball stadium?

    • A.

      Blue

    • B.

      White

    • C.

      Green

    • D.

      Brown

    Correct Answer
    D. Brown
    Explanation
    Brown is the correct answer. In our freeway wayfinding system in America, brown is used as a background color to inform drivers of cultural and recreational points of interest. Blue is used for traveler services (like hotels, restrooms, food, and phones); white is used for regulatory signs (like speed limit signs, or anything that tells you what you can and cannot do); and green is used for guides and information (like mile markers, exits, and distances).

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  • 12. 

    Figure-Ground Relationship: What do you see in the image below?

    • A.

      Depends on my mood; this is a Rorschach inkblot test (a psychology test that gauges emotion and personality).

    • B.

      A flying saucer.

    • C.

      A dog drinking water.

    • D.

      Fallen leaves.

    Correct Answer
    C. A dog drinking water.
    Explanation
    While you may see a number of different things in this image, the correct answer should be "a dog drinking water." When there are no clear visual cues between what is in the foreground and what is in the background, we have a hard time identifying what is in the picture. Sometimes our minds will shift between seeing one thing, and then seeing another (look at the FedEx logo and see how your eye switches between seeing the letters and the arrow). Interestingly, once we notice what is supposed to be there (in this case a dog drinking water), we cannot NOT see it anymore. HINT: if you cannot see it, there is a dalmatian whose head is about in the dead center of the image, leaning down as if drinking).

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  • 13. 

    Data Manipulation: The same data can be presented visually in many different ways. The three visualizations technically communicate the same data, yet each tells a different story about the data. Which visualization manipulates the data the most and thus communicates the least accurate (and probably unethical) meaning of the data?

    • A.

      A

    • B.

      B

    • C.

      C

    Correct Answer
    A. A
    Explanation
    The correct answer is "A." Each of these graphics shows an unemployment trend from December 2007 (right before President Obama took office) until June 2010. The data used for each graphic is the same--it came from research provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, graphic 'A' communicates to the viewer that there is a steady and unwavering climb in unemployment with no end in sight. The other two graphics suggest that, for about a year, unemployment slowed and steadied. In a political debate about whether or not President Obama's stimulus packages worked to slow unemployment, which graphic do you think he would prefer?

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