When you have large chunks of information to convey to your visitors, using imagery gives you the opportunity to make that information easier to understand. It takes far less time for someone to absorb information presented in a symbol than it does when they’re forced to read about it word-by-word.
The internet is full of examples of poorly documented instructions and written explanations. Users are plagued with too much information, incomplete information, signs in the wrong location, and ambiguous language.
There’s an equal amount of poor visual communication, but that’s because symbols need to be carefully designed and developed for maximum efficiency. You can’t just pay someone five bucks to create your image and expect a masterpiece in return.
Colors play a role in communication as well; colors can capture attention or drive it away. The construction of the wrong color combination on your blog can turn readers off.
Symbols quickly convey complex instructions
This basic fact can be seen on the roads where symbols describe what vehicles and pedestrians can and can’t do; instructions that would take a driver too long to read when spelled out. Road signs also communicate to drivers what’s ahead, so they can prepare to be in the correct lane.
For instance, these complex road signs use long arrows to indicate where each lane leads, and tells the driver what lane they need to be in when approaching a roundabout/rotary. The same type of symbol is used in GPS so the driver knows which lane they need to be in to maintain their course. When a freeway has four lanes but only the far-left lane will take the driver to their destination, only that lane is highlighted so the driver knows to stay in that lane.
The use of symbols as instructions is also seen in user manuals, although some companies are better at designing these manuals than others. When the imagery is done right, the symbols convey tiny nuances words can’t describe. For example, when you’re putting a piece of furniture together, accurate images depicting how the pieces fit together is more efficient than trying to figure out ambiguous or unfamiliar terminology.
People are hard-wired for visual processing
According to Canva, approximately 20% of your brain is devoted to vision – the visual cortex – and that system “reaches out and interacts with at least half of your brain, sending electrical impulses all over the place.”
Color plays a big role in capturing visual attention, and that’s why marketers focus on it. Citing a 2009 study from the University of Berkeley in California, Canva also explains that colors like blue and green are interpreted as safe, while red is interpreted as dangerous.
Color consultant Leslie Harrington comments on the power of color: “Color is a universal, nonverbal language, and we all intuitively know how to speak it. What color you paint your walls isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. It’s a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior.”
You can use color to influence people’s perception and behavior. Marketers, artists, and interior decorators do it all the time.
Colors support visual communications
Colors heavily support symbols in conveying complex messages. For example, this page discussing the safety of natural herbs compared to pharmaceuticals uses both red and green to convey degrees of safety. Colored meters are used to rate the potency of each substance on a scale from mild to extreme.
According to the visual meters, all pharmaceuticals have a red background while all-natural herbs have a green background.
When your content is often misunderstood, as is the case with the healing power of natural herbs, using colors to support your symbols is important.
Visual communication isn’t limited to infographics
Infographics are popular, but they’re not the only way to convey important messages. Icons, which have been around forever, were invented to replace words. Ted speaker and relationship coach Bruce Muzik uses large icons in the middle of his website to navigate to his blog, his coaching program, or to hire him as a speaker. What’s powerful about his icons is that all three icons depict hearts, representing his heart-centered approach to his work.
Communicating your message isn’t only about information
You could have a genius, 10-page report that answers every possible question anyone could think of, and most people will still prefer the condensed version in the form of an image. Efficient communication isn’t about conveying all of the information; it’s about conveying small chunks of information quickly and clearly.
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