Graphics That Just Don’t Work

Graphics That Just Don’t Work

What makes graphics click with your audience?

Is it your skill level, the finer details like color or shape, or could it be something else altogether?

While those things definitely contribute to the success of your graphics, you could still end up producing graphics that just don’t work even if you have the skills to show for it.

Mike Parkinson, author and Founder of Billion Dollar Graphics, joins this episode of The Visual Lounge to explain what it takes to make graphics that work.

He explains why graphic designers need to appeal to their target audience on two different levels — emotionally and intellectually.

Besides being the founder of Billion Dollar Graphics, Mike is a world-renowned communication and presentation expert, best-selling author, and professional trainer. He’s also a partner at 24 Hour Company, which is a premier creative services firm.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Why use graphics?

Before you even begin to understand what makes for good or bad graphics, it’s important to understand why we use these visuals in the first place. Mike offers three reasons you should use graphics:

1. To elicit a specific emotional response

"All designers need to understand tha decisions are made emotionall and justified intelectually." - Mike Parkinson

Often, the best way to do that is to show a clip, GIF, or animation of some sort. This will take people from where they are to where you want them to be.

2. It’s too complex to understand verbally

Some messages just don’t digest as easily as others. But once you throw in a picture here and an infographic there, it becomes easier for the audience to understand.

3. It’s a critical success factor

It’s vital that your audience understands your content. If they misunderstand it, you ultimately fail at your objective. Graphics can boost understanding and help you achieve what you want with your content.

What makes good graphics?

If you want to get into the technicalities of graphic design, there are a number of elements that make graphics work. But here’s the thing, you need to balance these “technicalities” with a little something extra.

Every graphic designer needs to understand that the way people consume content has changed drastically over the years.

People no longer have the patience. They want their content “clear and succinct,” and when that doesn’t happen, they move on to the next thing. So, creating good graphics mostly boils down to communicating your message clearly and effectively so people can “understand, recall and adopt it.”

Why some graphics simply don’t work

Every image, GIF, or infographic has a mission to achieve – to pass a clear message to your audience. If that message doesn’t transfer, then the image simply doesn’t work how it’s meant to.

Creating a successful graphic isn’t just about fancy aesthetics or technical elements. It’s about achieving a designed reaction from the audience.

The main reason graphic designers miss the mark is that they’re designing graphics for themselves, not the audience.  

While creating work you love is important, remember who you’re trying to sell this idea or proposal to — your target audience. If they don’t get it, then all your hard work could be for nothing.

How do you fix graphics that don’t work?

1. Have motivators for your audience

Before you create any content, be it textual or visual, there’s one important question to ask yourself. Why should your audience care?

Think about when you consume content. If a piece of content doesn’t have a strong enough hook to reel you in, you don’t think twice before moving on to the next thing.

Mike suggests you use a Motivators and Means approach (M and M approach). This involves creating an emotional motivator then providing a means by which your audience will receive that motivator.

To do this, you have to tap into one of the three things that motivate people: pain, gain, or fear. Building on any of these three things gives your audience a reason to care.

2. Know what you want to say before you say it

"The beauty of having a message as your north is that it filters out graphics that you don't need." - Mike Parkinson

In Mike’s words:

“Once you figure out what your message is, it gives you an outline to use to create your graphics.”

While it’s true that people have different styles of working, and some don’t mind reverse engineering their message from their visuals, it’s generally easier the other way round.

Once you know exactly what you want to communicate, then the process of creating clear and relevant graphics becomes a lot easier. 

More importantly, a clear, focused message helps you resist the urge to add clutter to your graphics.

Remember, sometimes less is more

It’s easy to get carried away with graphics, whether that’s using too many visuals, lots of bright colors, or complex designs.

But saturating your content with lots of visual elements can end up overwhelming your audience. All that does is distract them from the message you want to convey.

That’s why it’s vital to have that clear-cut message right at the beginning so you can build your visuals around that. Remember, sometimes simpler is better.

For more pointers on how to create clear and succinct visual content, head over to TechSmith Academy.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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