Visual Literacy: Why We Need To Speak In Pictures

Visual Literacy: Why We Need To Speak In Pictures
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Visual Literacy: Why We Need To Speak In Pictures


We’ve all heard the phrases: Seeing is believing. A picture is worth a thousand words. They’re about the importance of visual communication. And these truths are more important than ever today. We live in a world that’s inundated with information.

We have so much more to communicate today – ideas, plans, strategies, solutions, processes. Yet, attention spans are shrinking. And the reality is, often words aren’t powerful enough to break through.

Visual communication is the answer – and science backs it up. Here’s a quick run down of the research findings that have been circulated among advocates of visual communication

  • Our brains are wired to process pictures. 50% of your brain is engineered for visual processing. 70% of all your sensory receptors are in your eyes. 90% of information that comes to the brain is visual. (Hyerle or Jenson)
  • Visuals are fast. Our brains process images much faster than words. It only takes us 150 milliseconds for a symbol to be processed. We can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10 of a second. (Semetko, H. & Scammell, M)
  • Visuals last a long time. We are incredible at remembering pictures. According to the Pictorial Superiority Effect espoused by John Medina, if you hear a piece of information, three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture, and you’ll remember 65% of the content.

So how can we communicate in a more visual way?

Visual is our primary language and it is universal. We need to become visually literate.  Visual Literacy is the ability to turn thoughts into visuals. Not just words with pictures on the side, but words as pictures; the pictures need to do the explaining more than words.

Those who become visually literate will have a distinct and powerful communications advantage.