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Why Visual Communication works

September 15, 2020
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Julie Chandler

Ever wondered why you struggled to study from your history textbook, but could study and understand your geography textbook easier and faster?

We run into problems with text heavy content all the time – perhaps using visuals could be an answer to these problems.

Let me start by asking you these two questions:

What were your answers? Did the sign immediately warn you of danger? And could you instantly identify the painting?

And what if we took it one step further and had to communicate an important safety message to a large group of multilingual, multicultural people, all present in the same environment?

Four pictures do what no amount of words could do...

So why are these three examples of visual communication so powerful?

Visual communication removes the language element – eliminating the complexities and subtleties. Language has its place in our society; reading a well-written novel by an author who captures moments in time just wouldn’t be the same without their clever use of the written word.

However, for critical information; which needs to be understood quickly to prevent injuries or fatalities - elaborate language and embellished adjectives are not effective. The simplest, basic language is exactly what is needed to relay a critical message.
The main reason why you still remember road signs is because they are simple, clear, distinctive and memorable. Road signs are also largely self-explanatory.

What a person reads or hears as an instruction is understood through their own context, history, habits, culture and circumstance. A visual language can ensure that there is no loss of context.

Visual communication eliminates the need for translation. People travel from all over the world to see the Mona Lisa. She attracts a diverse audience, for all to see and experience. Yet everyone can see her without processing high levels of literacy or translating anything.

The overall message this visual no-words poster conveys: what the correct PPE looks like and the risks of not adhering to the correct PPE requirements.

This no-words poster conveys critical information without using a single word, meaning a large diverse audience can understand and act upon it.

Using visual communication saves time. How long did it take you to register Mona Lisa by looking at the text versus just glancing over the image? Research shows that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than texts. This means it is easier, and faster, to process a visual signal than it is to read a sentence or a full paragraph.

Visual communication improves clarity of information.

Had I not shown Leonardo’s painting of Mona Lisa, would you have visualised the Mona Lisa? Would you have pictured it as a young woman with a smile or without?

The value of viewers consuming visual communication are less susceptible to misunderstanding. The human brain is designed to interpret relationships between objects, which allows us to instantly comprehend what we’re viewing and what actions are required by us, if any. This is the basis that we at Jincom, use to deliver solutions around distributing critical information to increase safety on sites or other places of work.

Whether we use visuals to relay critical information or to express an emotion - it is clearly safe to say, that visual communication works. There are many reasons to embrace communicating visually, only four of them I have outlined in this blog post; improves clarity of information, saves time, removes the need for translation and eliminates complexities.

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