All communication is basically storytelling, and more and more of that storytelling depends on visuals. That’s why I was glad to find “Seeing is Believing: A Guide to Visual Storytelling Best Practices” by Resource Media.
This excellent report discusses three basic principles of visual communications.
- We are, after all, a visual species. “The visual cortex is the largest system in the human brain.”
- Much as we would like to pretend otherwise, our decisions and actions are based more on emotional reactions than on rational thought.
- Visuals are the most effective communications vehicles for evoking emotion and getting people to take action.
All of which means that, to communicate in the most powerful way possible, you need to be intentional about how you use visuals. These seven rules of the road can help.
Rules of the Road
- Don’t assume others will react to a picture or video the same way you do. Test visuals with your target audience.
- Pair your pictures with words for highest impact and to cement them deeper into your audience’s memory. “One University of Cambridge study showed that combining visuals with text increased learning by 89 percent over text-only information.” In another study “when information was presented orally, people remembered only about 10 percent of what they heard when tested 72 hours later. That figure jumped to 65 percent when pictures were added.”
- Make sure your images match your message. ”The visual sense dominates and will override the verbal message if they are not working in concert.” For example, showing people smoking in anti-smoking ads “has an unintended effect of encouraging, not deterring, the use of cigarettes.”
- Use genuine, not generic pictures. Take your own photos; don’t just use stock photos. And remember, “if you can’t write a caption for the photo that relates to the point of the body copy surrounding it, the chances are good your photo does not belong there.”
- First impressions matter! Invest the most in the first picture.
- To use pictures effectively, be diligent about taking them.
- People relate to people in pictures. Choose your subjects carefully. Babies, of course, evoke a dramatic emotional response. Showing “a single individual who represents or symbolizes your issue in a way people can identify with works much better than showing a crowd” (most of the time). And smiles and other facial expressions are universally recognized.
For the entire report discussing these important principles (with plenty of visual examples), go to http://www.resource-media.org/visual-story-lab/report/