Man drowning in a sea of text

Have you ever tried to convince someone to fund your venture? Or communicate a new strategy to your employees or board? Or have you ever had to train staff? If so, you’ve probably spent countless hours editing and polishing textual content. And if you happened to use images their sole function was to make your document or presentation appear, well, a bit less dry.

If this sounds familiar, you’re missing a great opportunity to really get through to your audience. Illustrations (or visuals more broadly) are not just a decorative element. They are communication dynamite that will get across a complex message in a fraction of the time it takes people to read your document or go through your PowerPoint presentation (if they ever get round to actually reading your document that is!)

Illustrations and other types of visual storytelling like infographics are particularly effective in two types of communication situations:

1. If you want to grab people’s attention
Your average office worker suffers from information overload. Unless you are lucky enough to have your audience’s undivided attention you are going to have hard time cutting through the clutter with your message. This is especially true if you are using email or social media as your communication channel. A visual message stands out in a sea of text simply because the human brain picks up image cues more directly than written ones.

2. If you need to get across a complex message
The more complicated and abstract your message (strategy, process etc) the harder it is for people to see how everything hangs together. With illustrations your audience will quickly grasp the big picture and how they fit in it.

As a former online campaigner for various non profit organisations I’ve learnt these two lessons the hard way. I, too, started out as a believer in the power of the written word (don’t get me wrong I still believe in the written word). But the truth is that when it comes to complex information and/or your audience has very or little time to read your messages nothing beats a good visual explanation.

And I’m not the only one who has noticed the power of visuals. The rise of infographics, data visualisations and books like Dan Roam’s brilliant Blah Blah Blah: What to Do When Words Don’t Work are all providing solutions to the same problem: how to communicate complex messages to people who are bombarded with information.

What this blog is about

In this blog I will talk about visual communication mainly, but not solely, in the context of the workplace. The approach is going to be mostly practical: showing examples of effective visual explanations, showcasing work that I’ve done and giving tips on how you too can turn some of your messages into effective visuals. The blog is mainly aimed at internal communications people and business leaders but I hope it to be useful to anyone who has to get across a message to an audience who doesn’t have the time to read or listen to long documents or presentations.

– Virpi