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Visual Literacy: Visual Literacy Standards

A guide to help you locate and cite images & media, and understand copyright & fair use.

What is Visual Literacy?

According to the International Visual Literacy Association, "visual literacy is the ability to read, write and create visual images. It is a concept that relates to art and design but it also has much wider applications. Visual literacy is about language, communication and interaction. Visual media is a linguistic tool with which we communicate, exchange ideas and navigate our complex world."

More information from the International Visual Literacy Association




"What is Visual Literacy?" YouTube, uploaded by Toledo Museum of Art, 19 November 2013,

Media Literacy Definition & Standards

National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) Media Literacy Defined

Media literacy is the ability to ACCESSANALYZEEVALUATECREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication.

In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.

NAMLE Media Literacy Standards
  • Media Literacy Education requires active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create.
  • Media Literacy Education expands the concept of literacy to include all forms of media (i.e., reading and writing).
  • Media Literacy Education builds and reinforces skills for learners of all ages. Like print literacy, those skills necessitate integrated, interactive, and repeated practice.
  • Media Literacy Education develops informed, reflective and engaged participants essential for a democratic society.
  • Media Literacy Education recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization.
  • Media Literacy Education affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages.

Further information on NAMLE

TEDx Talk on Media Literacy

"Media Literacy - The Power (and Responsibility) of Information - Lisa Cutter - TEDxCherryCreekWomen." YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 3 January 2020,

Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Visual Literacy Standards
  • Standard One:The visually literate student determines the nature and extent of the visual materials needed.
  • Standard Two: The visually literate student finds and accesses needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently.
  • Standard Three: The visually literate student interprets and analyzes the meanings of images and visual media.
  • Standard Four: The visually literate student evaluates images and their sources.
  • Standard Five:  The visually literate student uses images and visual media effectively.
  • Standard Six: The visually literate student designs and creates meaningful images and visual media.
  • Standard Seven: The visually literate student understands many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and accesses and uses visual materials ethically.

Further information on the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards

Importance of Visual Literacy

"Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy." YouTube, uploaded by Edutopia, 15 June 2012,