Why Visual Communication is Taking Over the World

By Mary Nielsen on Jul 27, 2016 in Latest & Greatest

Why Visual Communication is taking over the World

Connecting with people has never been easier. Or more constant. From FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp to emails, texting emojis and Snapchat, we are in the middle of a communication gold rush. But this time we’re panning for something a little less shiny.

In this article we explore why visual communication is becoming the dominant way we communicate, as well as its value in streamlining your business processes.

First things first.

Diagrams say things words can’t

Diagrams are clear representations of thought processes. They make an idea instantly graspable and require far less deciphering work from an audience than an idea that’s written out.

From Thing Explainer to weekly sports talks, ideas are not only becoming more enhanced by diagrams. They’re becoming the standard way for expressing ourselves.

visual_communication_nfl
Source: RedditNFL

The cool thing is, this isn’t anything new. Illustrations have been the foundation of communicating novel ideas for thousands of years. But for this purpose, let’s look specifically at diagrams with text.

Galileo Galilei was a master illustrator and used his sketches to help add insight to his novel discoveries. Here’s an excerpt from one of his essays:  

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The text by itself is heavy.

It might take a few times to read and understand exactly what Galileo means. We’re prone to skim it, or skip it entirely.

Now, take a look at the text with one of his illustrations.

4.

Though there’s still a ton of text, you don’t have to read as deeply to grasp Galileo’s point. The image illustrates what the text verbalizes, and it does so quicker and more clearly. Why?

For starters, visuals hold more punch.

visual_communication_brain

On average we retain 10% of new information after three days. But, when an image sits alongside text, we retain around 65% of the information after the same amount of time.

Visuals also enhance our cognition. They help spark imagination and creativity, and make it more fun for us to remember.

So what is it about visuals that just seems second-nature to us?

We are, in fact, visual beings

Our brain is a visual organ. 90% of information we absorb is visual. And, we process visual information 60,000 times faster than words.

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Simple Graphics Are More Successful

Visuals cut through data-clutter, giving us clarity and insight instead of confusion. When executed correctly, visuals simplify ideas and improve overall engagement.

There’s a reason Google constantly changes its homepage logo. For starters, they’ve seen significant engagement with their homepage when there’s a particularly delightful little logo.

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It’s become a habit to expect something beautiful and interesting regarding a significant date.

Making their logo represent a current or historical event sparks curiosity in users. Sometimes, they even have interactive games or visual stories.  

Google is not the only big-time company that sees true value in using visuals.  

IKEA has no text in furniture assembly instructions. Not because they can’t translate to hundreds of languages. It’s simply because graphics are easier for people to engage with.

Billy bookcase instructions

Visuals help communicate the process.

Apple Watch app designer Marc Nischan relied on a series of sketches he constantly modified and evaluated while thinking through his end goal.

By using rough sketches and testing different designs before settling on his final theme, Nischan was able to communicate his ideas without leaving any room for interpretation.

We’re changing how we communicate

We are in the middle of one of the biggest shifts in human communication. Stemming from the internet, a predominantly text medium, we’re moving further and further away from heavy text and closer and closer to letting visuals do the heavy lifting.

Our visual IQ is rising faster than any other IQ measure. In order to get our ideas across in a simple and easy manner, diagrams are not only a plus, they’ve now become a necessity. Visual communication is the dominant way we communicate.

Just about everything we communicate can be grasped more easily with the help of illustrations. From data flows to sales processes, putting things down visually allows your team to get on the same page with you, quickly.

The question we need to ask ourselves now: are we ready to get the most out of this communications gold rush?