The power of images – if you’re solely concerned with the words, you’re missing the point. There is much more to your craft

It’s amazing how time seems to smooth a path to all dreams. At one stage, not too long ago in the scheme of things, a camera was considered a luxury item. Not everyone had one and it was used on a rare, special occasion. Today, everyone has one in their pocket documenting everything they see. Despite Kodak having seen better days, we still have a fixation with images, both still and moving. BBC Research says the digital photography market will be worth $82.5 billion by 2016. Facebook said a little photo-sharing app named Instagram was worth one billion dollars by itself last year. Next year Google may launch it’s much awaited augmented reality solution, Glass. It is expected to boost the already swelling pockets of savvy investors. So a picture doesn’t just say 1000 words, it also says $$$

But, why?

According to a clever chap named Paivio, there are two ways we consume material – verbal associations and visual imagery. It’s the theory of dual-coding. This suggests both visual and verbal information, while processed differently in distinct channels in the human mind, create separate representations for information processed in each channel. This duality, this intrinsic relationship, allows us to store and recall information. One without the other is but a silhouette. As a Comms Pro, what you need to understand is this – you have to remember something for it to mean anything!

In other words (pun intended), it doesn’t matter how eloquently you write, the mind’s eye has to be evoked if you are to be effective in communicating. How much of history would still be left to debate if we had accompanying images to bring to life bygone script? People say they’ll believe it when they see it, not when they read it! It’s a fascinating thing to ponder when you future-gaze…

Yet, while the past contextualises learnings for the present, this is 2013 and here’s what it means to you today:

The world is not black and white – Colour is important. Put some thought into the palette you use. The Stroop Effect as an example showcases the nature of automatic processing versus conscious visual control. It’s about where your mind goes before you realise it. Basically, what you get here: Red Blue

So, if you are not artistically inclined, work with a designer who is – it will make a world of difference. I’ve seen too many dodgy Powerpoint presentations from supposed communications professionals; to be honest it’s just defeatist.

Images are important in story telling, even stills – Instagram is the fastest growing social network for brands with 14 per cent growth in the last quarter. Between it and Pinterest, you see how captivating snapshots can be. A clever photo can be the difference between resonance and reticence.

Humans were designed as film directors – Our eyes process motion in an incredibly sophisticated fashion. Is it any wonder 87 per cent of Australians watch TV for an average of three hours a day? Add this to the total number of hours spent on YouTube per month at around 2.9 billion, roughly 11 hours a month in Australia and you have to ask yourself why video is not a core part of your communications mix. Would you rather read a case study, or watch one?

Like a kaleidoscope, bring it all together – The rise and rise of the Infographic can be attributed to one thing – it breaks information into digestible chunks. Ninety per cent of information transmitted to the brain is visual after all. As a consequence, half of the brain is dedicated to visual function. It results in visuals being processed 60,000 times faster than text!

So next time you’re sweating over something you are writing, remember you will do well to put an equal amount of energy into how you can visually frame it!

– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter

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