Reading from A Primer of Visual Literacy by Dondis
Representational: is what we see and recognize from environment and experience.
Reality is the basic and most dominant visual experience. All visual experience is subject to individual interpretation. Is the most effective level or way to utilize in a strong, direct, reporting of the visual details of the environment both natural and made.
Abstract:is basic elemental visual components , more direct, emotional, primitive. The removal of extraneous detail, the emphasis of distinguishing features. The reduction of multiple visual factors to only the essential and most typical features of what is being represented. Bearing no connection to any representational information drawn from experience of the environment. It can have meaning but it doesn't have to, yet the process to the simplification is similar to the process of symbolic art. Abstraction has been associated particularly with painting and sculpture as the unique pictorial expression of the 2oth century.
Symbolic:the coded symbol systems which is created by men and it has attached meaning. Ultimate simplicity, the reduction of visual detail to the irreducible minimum and it contains universal meaning. "One symbol is worth a thousand pictures."Symbols have meaning pinned on them.
Excerpt from Design Writing Research Ellen Lupton, states that perception and the reading of different shapes, objects varies within individuals based on education, customs and images.