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Visual Storytelling

Open to: Grades 7-12
Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level verbal score required
Challenge Level: College Freshman
Course Format: Session Based. See calendar for session dates and application deadlines.
Recommended School Credit: One-half academic year
Course Length: 10 weeks (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, Spring); 12 weeks (Early Summer); or 5 weeks (intensive Late Summer)
Course Code: VCOM

Course Description

About Visual Fluency

Digital technology has made the ability to create and share images commonplace. "The ability to both read and write visual information; the ability to learn visually; to think and solve problems in the visual domain — will, as the information revolution evolves, become a requirement for success in business and in life," says Dave Gray.

Visual fluency is now as vital as verbal fluency to success in college and life. These courses incorporate principles of communication theory, design theory, cognitive psychology, and art history to provide a basic understanding of the fundamental principles of effective visual communication.

Visual Storytelling

Students explore elements of design as a component of visual communication. They experiment with planning a story via visual planning methods such as concept mapping and storyboarding. They examine the components of effective visual storytelling. As a capstone project, students create an original visual story and provide a rationale for their visual and design choices in the process.

This course does not have any synchronous class meetings, but students may schedule one-on-one virtual meetings directly with the instructor.

Students may be invited to interact in CTY community spaces that include students and instructors and potentially specially invited guests that are not enrolled in their course. Videos from YouTube or other web providers may be present in courses. Video recommendations or links provided at end of videos are generated by the video host provider and are not CTY recommendations. Student contributions (e.g., projects, forum posts, etc.) may remain in the course after the student completes the course. These artifacts may be preserved to showcase student work or to continue important conversations.

Materials Needed


Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. William Morrow Paperbacks.
ISBN: 978-0060976255 Available in many bookstores.

cover of understanding comics


Photoshop, which costs, or GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is free. Tutorials on either software are freely available online.

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Lesson One - Exploring Text as Visual

Review of Communication Theory & Persuasion
Text as Visuals
Fair Use and Copyright
Telling Stories
Image Cognition Assignment (ICA)

Lesson 2: Balance and Unity in Design

Taking pictures
Balance in Design
Unity in Design
Sequencing in an Effective Story
Image Cognition Assignment (ICA)

Lesson 3: Nonverbal Communication

Rhythm in Design
Emphasis in Design
Nonverbal communication
Developing a Character
Image Cognition Assignment (ICA)

Lesson 4

Focus on Photography
Rule of Thirds for Design
Visual Hierarchy
Visuals for information
Image Cognition Assignment (ICA)

Lesson 5

Recap of all principles of design
Motion in story sequence
Credibility in Image Choice
Image Cognition Assignment (ICA)

Time Required

  • 3 hours weekly for the 10-week or 12-week sessions (Fall, Winter, Spring, Early Summer)
  • 2 hours daily Monday - Friday during the intensive 5-week session (Late Summer)

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.