Visible light communications (VLC) is an emerging field of optical communications that focuses on the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans can see. Much existing work in optical communications exists, mainly optimized for capacity and transmission performance in fiber and free-space with biases toward spectrum that minimizes attenuation in the medium. However, the use of the visible spectrum has gained interest due to its availability and the ease at which it can be modulated using light emitting diodes (LEDs). Recent demand factors due to the burgeoning mobile industry and the rapid evolution of LED-based lighting are also driving this interest. Here, and in this special issue, we outline the context of VLC, its unique benefits, and describe the state of the art research contributions of the assembled papers.