The Power of Visual CommunicationEric Merlin
Communication, as we all know is the exchange of information, thoughts, ideas and emotion. There are two types of communication, the verbal communication and nonverbal communication.
Under nonverbal communication is visual communication which is said to be as the most powerful tool to inform and present information to people.
It is very efficient when it comes to informing, educating and persuading a person. This has been proven by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist who demonstrated that 93% of communication is nonverbal.
Also, the 3M Corporation concluded in their research that an individual can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Using visual materials is a very important method of communication that we have available as human beings.
Why Visual Communication Has Better Impact?
The use of visuals continues to grow. Statistics also show that by 2018, 84% of all marketing communication is going to be visually presented. There are a number of reasons why visual communication is known for having the better impact to a person’s senses.
Let us get into a human’s brain. A human brain can decipher image elements simultaneously. It enables us to relay messages faster which means it saves us time. Verbal communication involves language which is decoded in a linear, sequential manner. And because of that, receiving the message takes more time to process.
Communication is a broad subject matter. Many people think that they have reached the depth of its meaning. But the truth is, not yet. Communication is a word that we hear daily, but it is something that we never get to understand it real meaning.
There are numerous aspects involved which are needed in this one single process.
And to be able to get the right comprehension, a continuous learning process can be very helpful. Communication is not constant. One clear proof is the textual ubiquity which is brand new.
Millions of years have passed by and the evolution of things reached the edge of communication. Today, people are more genetically wired to respond interestingly to visuals than texts.
For example, we would all agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is because our own imagery or perception of things though what we see visually has grown exponentially.
A person would always want to communicate his messages effectively. And since there is a higher average number of interactions today, an individual can easily evoke an instant sense of well-being and contentment.
More Helpful Information on Visual Communication
According to a media theorist John Berger, in his book ‘Ways of Seeing’ (Penguin Books, 1972), he stated that “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”.
It goes just like the same with what Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and writer of several books and papers on visual literacy, said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear.
Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers.
Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.” Therefore people think using pictures. It is easier for a person to understand what a circle is, if the circle is being shown as an image rather than being explained.
Using visuals when trying to communicate is more effective than using texts. There is a difference when it comes to human perception.
An individual can easily understand what he is receiving by looking at clear images.
Aside from effective and efficient means of sending and communicating data, visual materials can emotionally affect an individual as well.
Research results show that exposure to the color red can heighten our pulse and breathing rates. Take for example, this image below.
Upon looking at the sample image, how did you feel? How fast was that feeling got into your senses? So now you are thinking that seeing such image can promptly give you a strong emotional response or in other words, you are easily affected by it.
If the image sample will be described using text or words verbally, the reaction would be different.
In return, the mental digestion of the information is not as fast as how a clear image gets into your mind you. This fact was proven by J. Francis Davis, an adult educator and media education specialist.
This is what he said, “…in our culture pictures have become tools used to elicit specific and planned emotional reactions in the people who see them.” Therefore visuals, aside from being excellent communicators, it can also affect a person psychologically and physiologically in fast time.
Don Norman, author of Emotional Design, said in a Discover magazine article, “Beauty and the Beastly PC: The Graphics on Your Computer Screen Can Affect the Way You Feel—and Think,”
“I started out as an engineer, and I thought that what was really important was that something worked. Appearance—how could that matter? And yet for some reason, I would still buy attractive things, even if they didn’t work as well as the less attractive ones. This puzzled me. In the last two years, I’ve finally come to understand that it’s a result of the extremely tight coupling between emotion and cognition. Emotion is about judging the world, and cognition is about understanding. They can’t be separated.”
Visuals can be very persuasive as well. One clear proof is that we often hear people saying, “I didn’t believe it until I saw it.” and “seeing is believing”.
The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab asked 2,440 participants how they evaluated the credibility of Web sites they were shown.
Almost half (46.1%) said that the Web site’s design look was the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the presented material. The following are some of the captured participant comments:
“This site is more credible. I find it to be much more professional looking.” -M, 38, Washington
“More pleasing graphics, higher-quality look and feel …” -F, 52, Tennessee
“Just looks more credible.” -M, 24, New Jersey
“I know this is superficial, but the first thing that struck me is the color difference. The … site is a soothing green (sort of like money) while the [other] site is a jarring purple.” -M, 56, Virginia
More and more in today’s ever changing, highly visual world, success becomes much easier to achieve. Another example to be cited is when it talks about promoting a company’s brand.
Through visual communication, a company’s brand or message is conveyed to the viewer and establishes an emotional connection to the company. This makes the audience connects to the company internally without hassle and stressful activities.
Once the visual communication rules of a strong brand strategy have been established, success is almost there. It is never hard to accomplice something with the power of visual communication.
Allen Ginsberg, poet and author, stated, “Whoever controls the media—the images—controls the culture.” Yes, you read it right. As early as the late nineteenth century, advertisers were convinced that illustrations sold goods faster that goods with merely texts on them.
There were clear proofs of World War II propaganda posters that were effectively manipulating popular opinion.
We must realize that seeing the situation is very different from reading or just hearing about it. Again, this fact has been proven way back many years ago when the Sunday New York Times was published, “Good as a Gun: When Cameras Define a War,”.
In this book, readers were greatly influenced with the images that photojournalists captured.
In 1986, a 3M-sponsored study at the University of Minnesota School of Management found that presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don’t use visuals.
There was an experiment that took place.
Its goal was to persuade undergraduates to commit their time and money to attending time management seminars. There were many presenters who participated and they have various skill levels.
That time, researchers were able to prove that average presenters who used visual aids were as effective as more advanced presenters using no visuals. The audience were also seen expecting the advanced presenters to include professional, quality visuals in their presentation.
Will you do the same if you are the presenter?
Visual communication is a very broad category that tracing its history become difficult for experts to tell. Although there was an evidence found that suggest the oldest form of communication, there were no exact answers of when this visual communication started.
But there were clear indications that visual communication was already preferred by early people when it comes to sending messages and data.
For example, in regions around the world there are cave paintings from thousands of years ago. Cave paintings were drawn or etched into cave walls and ceilings. It is a primitive form of visual communication.
Textual communication is new because it has been with us in one form or another for only 3,700 years.
Today, because of the innovation in technology, graphic communication became more ubiquitous. It can easily affect us both cognitively and emotionally:
1) Cognitively: Graphics expedite and increase our level of communication. They increase comprehension, recollection, and retention.
Visual clues help us decode text and attract attention to information or direct attention increasing the likelihood that the audience will remember.
2) Emotionally: Pictures enhance or affect emotions and attitudes. Graphics engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking by stimulating other areas of our brain. It is no secret that emotions influence decision-making:
“(Emotions) play an essential role in decision making, perception, learning, and more … they influence the very mechanisms of rational thinking.”
Larry Tracy, who now trains corporate executives to make oral presentations for government contracts, headed the Pentagon’s top briefing team and worked for years with the Department of State.
He was aware that graphics were so influential in the government’s decision to purchase goods and services that bad buying decisions were made based on the quality of the visuals in the presented materials.
Today, businesses spent millions of dollars just to find the perfect imagery to sell a product, service or idea. The promotion of a brand depends on how the graphic is well created.
And this has brought huge advantage to people who are skilled in such a talent of creating visual and graphic materials.
People are becoming more and more dependent on what they see, than what they hear or feel. The strong effect of visual perception is there.
And as the technology continues to evolve at this very present time, the discoveries of greater imageries continue. The combination of graphics and words has a communicative power that can easily persuade someone who has a fix mind and behavior.
But communication is still best with graphics and words. Without graphics, an idea may be lost in a sea of words. Without words, a graphic may be lost to ambiguity. The perfect idea is to build using both communication materials together.
Language is a strong word. It is very powerful that it can affect people’s lives, it can affect how the world evolves in totality.
People should learn how to value it more and make greater discoveries on how language and communication can make things turn better. Since there is greater information today, the ability to take all the messages is vital.
It is what each of us need to internally contemplate.
There should be proper means of communication to ensure that this privilege is not being abused.
Language will continue to grow but the means of communication may die if people will not exert effort to saving it from fading. Language is priceless but it can have its barrier. Each and every person must be involved in keeping the means of communication open.
There are many ways. What we need is the action.