What is visual communication?
Visual communication is the practice of using visual elements to communicate information or ideas. Types of visual communication include animated GIFs, screenshots, videos, pie charts, infographics, and slide deck presentations.
Getting your message across in a clear, concise way can be difficult with words alone. By incorporating visuals, you can save a lot of back and forth due to confusion. Today I want to walk you through how to improve your visual communication.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to use good visual communication
- Why is visual communication important?
- What are examples of visual communication?
TechSmith’s research shows that using visual content, such as short videos and static images, vs. text alone, saves time and improves performance.
How to use good visual communication
Being able to communicate your message clearly is important no matter where you work. And incorporating visuals in your emails or presentations can change the way your team communicates.
We all know the seemingly eternal streams of emails, meetings, phone calls, and instant messages we go through aren’t as effective as they could be.
And, guess what all those methods typically have in common?
Usually lots of them.
Here’s a little secret: Words alone aren’t the best way to communicate. In fact, there’s all kinds of research that shows us that in many cases, it’s downright inefficient.
1. Onboard new employees
It can be time consuming to schedule face-to-face training sessions every time a new employee joins your organization. It’s also overwhelming to be a new employee with so much to learn right from the start.
Make onboarding easier by creating narrated screencasts that show how to use your organization’s standard programs. New hires will be able to re-watch them when they need a refresher, and you’ll save time by avoiding in-person training sessions.
You can even use animated GIFs to help with training!
2. Capture inspiration
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So when you see a concept you like, take a screenshot of it!
Saving good ideas with screenshots lets you build up a library of inspiration to use the next time you’re stuck for ideas. Similar to mood boards or swipe files, you’ll have images of examples or ideas you liked or didn’t like.
3. Skip writing pages of notes
Have you ever had the problem of trying to scribble down pages of notes, only to realize you missed parts of what was said. One way to help alleviate this problem is to record the conversation (with permission, of course).
Recording a conversation will ensure you don’t miss any details. You can also share the recording so that those who might have been absent can still get all of the relevant information.
Handwritten notes can be influenced by the perspective of the note-taker, so it would be ideal to always have a recording handy.
4. Give clear feedback
Giving and receiving feedback on content or projects can be challenging. You often have to wait (or chase) stakeholders for feedback on projects. And sometimes when they provide their suggestions, it’s paragraphs of text which you’re left to interpret yourself.
Using visuals to show your exact feedback can reduce the time spent sending emails back and forth and helps everyone get on the same page. This can make the approval process go much faster.
5. Reporting progress
Line graphs and pie charts are effective visuals, but without context, they might not be able to stand alone in an email or message.
One of my favorite visual communication strategies is to record a video rather than simply communicating with graphics. It’s a simple level-up to how you present information to your team.
By hitting record and narrating your graphs or slide presentations, you can help your audience better understand results, data, and the impact they may have on your business. This can be particularly helpful when reporting data to coworkers in different departments who may need a little more explanation or context in order to understand what the numbers mean.
Adding graphic elements to reports can also help achieve clarity and engagement, instead of text alone.
6. Better emails
Email is a necessary part of work and a crucial communication tool. But what if you could cut down the amount of text and still convey your point in a way that will grab people’s attention?
Adding screenshots to your emails can help you create a more visual message. They are more engaging to view than blocks of text, and you can draw your reader to your main point with marked-up screenshots.
Why is visual communication important?
So, why the increase in visual communication? Most of us are figuring out that using communication information visually is a much more impactful way to get your point across. Even it’s using a basic visual aid.
Here are four important reasons why visual communication is crucial in order to effectively deliver a meaningful message.
1. Visual communication saves time by relaying messages faster.
Stats have shown that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
Getting your point across quickly is a great way to conserve time and money.
Images and video convey a richer experience than text-heavy content alone. In a media landscape filled with clutter, readers’ attention is hard to acquire, and even harder to retain.
As a result, readers often prefer to scan content rather than read word-for-word. Keeping your material loaded with visuals is a surefire way to relay your message in less time.
2. Visual communication ensures that a clear, unified message is delivered.
When you have an abundance of text in an email, your message can get lost. The recipient of your note might have a hard time understanding your point, resulting in time being wasted. Instead, use visuals!
Collaborating on projects with remote employees can be challenging. Short, simple videos or animated GIFs are a great way to quickly iterate on suggested edits among your team, and make certain that everyone involved is on the same page.
GIFs are also a great way to lighten the mood. Working can be stressful, so incorporating fun GIFs that not only send a clear message but also entertain can aid the communication process.
3. Visual communication helps to provide a shared, consistent experience.
An important part of delivering a consistent experience with visuals is branding. In addition to a logo, many organizations have defined brand colors that should be used in all marketing activities.
Logos, colors, font, graphics, icons, and imagery, paired with your company’s voice and tone, make your brand recognizable.
Using consistent visual communication is a great way to take advantage of your brand’s equity when launching to a new market.
Regardless if your organization has five people or 500 people, if it’s a start-up, or if it has a long history, making sure that everyone is using the same defined brand elements is a great way to start driving recognition of your organization and build brand awareness.
4. Visual communication results in better retention of the information.
From a scientific perspective, it’s been found that using relevant visuals help the audience remember the information more effectively.
Of all information transmitted to the brain, 90% is visual. And as we discussed earlier, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
Whether your planned communication is internal or external and regardless of the topic or strategy, retention is always something to aim for.
What are examples of visual communication?
There a tons of good graphics and visual design elements that you can add to your communication stack. Here are a few of the most common:
- Screen recordings
- Pie charts
- Data visualizations
- Slide decks
- Social media posts
Visuals keep things fresh and exciting, don’t be afraid to incorporate more than one of the examples discussed above.
The evidence overwhelmingly points to the same conclusion — using visual communication is crucial to an overall strategic communication plan. Incorporating images and video throughout messaging has benefits for both the sender and the receiver.
Creating images isn’t exclusive to those with formal graphic design training or with access to expensive, high-end tools. Simple screenshots are a great example of an easy way to create your own image while conveying a message in a meaningful way.
If you are not sure how to get started using visuals to help you communicate better, Snagit is a great tool to use to create screenshots, simple videos and screencasts, and animated GIFs.