We totally get it, it’s slightly ironic that we’ve chosen to write a blog about the importance of visual communication. After all, a picture tells a thousand words. Right?
During this coronavirus pandemic, you’ll have seen many examples of how visual-led communications have helped us understand important messages quickly.
- “Keep two (or is it one?) metres apart.”
- “Wear a face mask.”
- “Wash your hands properly”, while singing two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’.
As Albert Mehrabian reminds us, 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is vocal and 55% non-verbal, so the case for well-considered visual communication is compelling.
Changes in technology too are exerting an ever-growing influence on our lives and the way we process information.
So, when it comes to communicating with customers, employees and wider stakeholders, it’s not just about how to deliver those messages, it’s about the visual impact needed to ensure they’re seen and heard above everything else.
Whether you want to attract, educate, inform, persuade, convert people – or to do all of these things, it’s vital to get the visual aspect of your communications right.
Using poorly conceived visualisation can distract from your core messaging. It can even risk constituting ‘misinformation’.
“Poorly presented content not only has the potential to corrupt your narrative, but to threaten the effectiveness of your entire communications strategy”. PWC
Changes in technology have a growing influence on daily-life activities and the information-processing habits of individuals. As information and communication devices evolve to deliver richer content rapidly, regardless of time and place, new media presentation formats emerge.
What do you need to do?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you want your audience to do something?
We need to differentiate between the need to engage and the need to instruct, especially if we’re talking about urgent actions, like for health and safety.
Human beings are highly efficient at processing images, we can pick up signals as fast as 100 milliseconds (thousandths of seconds) – yes really! That matters when you need to get a clear message across fast.
Colour psychology and learned associations can help too, although we need to be aware of cultural differences.
- For many, red signifies danger, but in China it symbolises good luck.
- For some, yellow signifies caution, but in France it symbolises jealousy and betrayal (for us that’s green!).
- And while blue is often used to signify cleanliness, in Mexico it can symbolise mourning!
So it’s not always that easy.
2. Do you need to stand out from the crowd?
Want to avoid disappearing into the background? Then use good quality, bold, arresting, and well-composed imagery.
Did you know that the human brain processes a direct gaze more intensely than a face with an averted gaze or closed eyes? And that a direct gaze can intensify the feeling of you being the target of the other’s interest and intentions?
Faces which look outward from a website, video, social media post, poster, or brochure are far more likely to gain our attention.
Also, using high contrast, vivid colours are not only great at attracting attention, they increase the legibility of keywords and messages for us too.
3. How much time have you got?
You’ve literally got a split second to get someone’s attention.
If you need to demonstrate a set of results, some data, or complex information, then a well-designed infographic’s probably the answer.
Educational studies show that using infographics, particularly in our technological, social media age, increases knowledge and learning skills.
4. Will your audience understand what you’re saying?
Language, age, cultural and educational barriers all affect and interfere with the effective absorption of messages. Using clear diagrams, or widely recognised icons and graphics can overcome these barriers. And remember that over half of all of us (65%) are visual learners.
5. What reaction do you want to provoke?
Emotion has a substantial influence on our cognitive processes, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. It explains why emotional reactions are critical to successful marketing.
Campaigns with purely emotional content perform twice as well as those with mere facts. Our brains are trained to decipher all the elements of an image at the same time, so we’re able to make a quicker cognitive and emotional association with an image.
6. Does this need to be memorable?
Studies have shown that we can remember more than 2,000 pictures with at least 90% accuracy in recognition tests, and with only brief exposure to them.
A strong, visual solution can make the difference between the highly memorable and the quickly forgotten.
7. How difficult is it for your audience to grasp what you’re saying?
For change management, internal training, internal communications, or product marketing, gaining our understanding of what you’re trying to say and what that means for us is vital. Using both our visual and aural senses significantly improves this.
The National Teacher Training Institute has shown that: “students taught using instructional video retain more information, understand concepts more rapidly and are more enthusiastic about what they are learning”.
Video, animation and motion graphics that are well done give you the ability to tell a story and to create content that grabs attention, is more engaging and increasingly shareable.
8. Do you want people to share this?
In our social media world, we’re 40 times more likely to share visual content. And articles that feature an image every 75-100 words will receive double the shares of those with text alone.
Research also suggests that consumers are better able to imagine themselves physically interacting with a product when they see a part of someone else doing the same.
Typically an image with part of a person, say a hand, interacting with an object attracts most engagement. Partial body images performed 29% better than those showing a whole person and 10% better those with no human interaction at all.
How do we know all this? It’s our business. We’ve learned it from working with a wide-range of businesses and brands, especially those with difficult concepts, information, products or services to communicate. For their audiences strong, well thought-out, well considered, professionally executed visual communications truly can make the complex simple.
Want to discover what giving more visual power to your communications can do?
Get in touch, we’re always happy to talk.