What Is A Visual Learner?

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 14, 2021
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Visual Learning

Everyone learns and processes information differently, and these unique learning styles didn’t just apply when you were in school. Knowing your preferred method to take in information is beneficial for your professional life as well.

The four main learning styles are:

  • Visual

  • Auditory

  • Reading/Writing

  • Kinesthetic

Visual learners understand things best when they can see them. They like visual aids, whether that’s an infographic, a color-coded list, or a symbol.

Auditory learners absorb the most information by hearing it. People who are strong in this area listen to audiobooks and lectures and often prefer to read material aloud.

Reading/writing learners like words. They enjoy seeing written instructions and bullet points on a whiteboard. Reading is one of the best ways they absorb information, and taking notes helps it stick.

Kinesthetic learners learn best when they get to do hands-on projects or try something out for themselves. When learning how to do a new task, they like to do it while you talk them through it instead of simply watching you or hearing the instructions.

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While no one uses just one of these styles in isolation and none are better than the others, most people have one (or sometimes two) that they naturally lean towards the most. Knowing which one is for you is important to be an effective learner and worker.

This article focuses on the visual learning style and its traits and strengths. Even if you don’t learn this way, you should still keep reading, because you’ll also find tips on how to communicate effectively with those who do.

Characteristics and Strengths of Visual Learners

Even though there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a visual learner, there are some key characteristics of the style:

  1. Visual learners absorb information better from graphs, charts, and other visual aids than from someone explaining it to them. While visual learners can learn through someone talking to them, information clicks best when they can see it.

    The same goes for the way visual learners share information. They’re more likely to use visual aids and images to get their point across because that’s how their minds work.

  2. Visual learners are often good with maps and directions. Because visual information sticks with them better, maps are often a piece of cake for visual learners to understand and remember. They might also recognize landmarks well, making it easy for them to navigate.

  3. Visual learners are typically strong notetakers and list-makers. Again, not every visual learner is the same, but many prefer to have a written record of information that they can look at while they process it.

    For some, even the act of seeing the note or to-do list is enough to solidify it in their minds, and they don’t need to go back to reference it later.

  4. Visual learners generally like to watch people do something instead of being told how to do it. They’re the ones who would rather look up an instructional YouTube video to watch someone complete a process than read a written set of instructions.

  5. Visual learners are often good at design. Because their minds are so keen on observing how the world around them looks, many visual learners are naturally gifted at creating color palettes and arranging objects (or text, graphics, etc.) in a pleasing way.

  6. Visual learners tend to be highly organized. This skill often goes hand-in-hand with note-taking and list-making, but it doesn’t stop there. Whether it’s a color-coded spreadsheet or a precisely arranged desk area, organization is a strength that often comes with visual learning.

  7. Visual learners can often remember the locations of words or passages in a book or article. The most extreme cases are people with a photographic memory who can remember an entire book after reading it once, but many visual learners can at least remember what they read and where they read it.

    For example, someone with this skill might say something like, “I can’t remember which page it’s on, but it’s about halfway down on the right side.”

  8. Visual learners often like to doodle or draw as they process information. A different form of note-taking for some, drawing is another way visual learners absorb or think through information.

Thriving in the Workplace as a Visual Learner

If you are a visual learner or realize you might at least learn that way, it’s important that you embrace these skills in your professional life. Don’t try to force yourself into a method of processing information that just isn’t going to be productive for you. Instead, lean into how your mind works and take steps to use that to its fullest potential.

While each of these techniques won’t work for everyone, take the ones that seem most helpful to you and try them out:

  1. Take notes everywhere you go. Jotting down notes during meetings, seminars, and phone calls will not only keep you from forgetting important information, but it will also give you something to look at so that you can take advantage of your visual learning style and let yourself truly absorb the information.

    Find a fast and easy way to do this, whether that’s on a laptop, tablet, or notepad. Take it with you even when you’re only planning to ask your boss a quick question.

    If you don’t have a chance to take notes during a meeting or only have time to take haphazard ones, it might be worth sitting down and writing them all up neatly after the meeting is over.

    This will allow your mind to fully process the takeaways, even if you never go back to the notes again.

  2. Read meeting agendas before the meeting starts. Especially if you’re going to need to contribute to the meeting, get your mind on the right track by allowing yourself to see the meeting’s structure.

    You might even want to jot down a few of your initial thoughts on some of the points so that you have something ready to go if needed. This is a good habit to get into, even if you aren’t a visual learner.

  3. Keep a notepad handy for sketching and drawing as you organize your thoughts. Even if you don’t like taking notes, having a pen and paper at the ready can allow you to draw out diagrams or simple doodles as you process information. It can also help you make plans for how to attack projects.

  4. Pay attention to your visual surroundings and how they help or hinder your work. If having a messy (or pristine) workspace stresses you out, take the time to rearrange it so that it works better for you.

    Putting decorations on your walls or desk that make you feel more productive can be worth the investment of time and money as well.

  5. Find a list-making technique that works best for you. If you need a to-do list to function but need it to be more visually differentiated than one long list, take a few hours to research how to do this.

    Color coding your to-dos, making multiple list categories, or rearranging your tasks in order of importance each day all could be ways of making your lists more effective for you to use.

  6. Use color-coded organization processes. Just like with your to-do list, color coding may be an effective way to organize the rest of your files, spreadsheets, and even notes.

    Invest in some multicolored highlighters, pens, and file folders and experiment with different ways to use them. It may take some time and some trial and error, but the effort will be worth it in the long run.

Tips for Communicating More Effectively With Visual Learners in the Workplace

Even if you don’t know all of your employees’ or coworkers’ learning styles, you should always cater to several different ones, including visual learning, when you’re communicating:

  1. Pay attention and adjust to their needs and requests. If you notice that a coworker or employee regularly asks you to show them how a program works or to draw a graph, chances are they tend to learn best visually.

    Once you know this, communicate better with them in the future, bring the actual charts or reports you’re discussing to your meeting, write notes on a whiteboard, or conduct demonstration-based training.

    This goes for anyone you work with, not just the visual learners, though, so take note of everyone’s requests and preferences as much as you can.

  2. Send out meeting agendas beforehand. Giving your employees the chance to look over the talking points for the meeting will help them get on track with you before they even arrive.

    Include an outline and discussion topics and questions so that meeting members can start formulating their thoughts ahead of time. Whether your team is full of visual learners or not, this will help everyone be more engaged.

  3. Provide handouts or materials to take notes during a presentation. Whether you provide ready-made handouts or simple pens and paper, giving your visual learners a second way to take in information will help your message stick.

    Note-taking is beneficial for everyone, so work to make this a common practice within your team or office.

  4. Use visual aids in your reports. If possible, include charts and graphs in your presentations and reports to help further solidify the point you’re trying to make with your data and to give your visual learners a picture to reference as they listen.

    Few people can quickly absorb and interpret many numbers or pieces of information without some sort of visual aid, so everyone will appreciate your incorporating them.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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