Our communication is becoming more visual every day. We send emojis, gifs, pictures. We Instagram, Snapchat, or use the latest Facebook Filters to add some visual elements to our video chats. Visual communication is everywhere – and it’s faster, more effective, and fun.
Business communication is not exempt from integrating visual elements and from giving everyone more and more opportunities to communicate visually. From Trello boards to Basecamp organization to our very own Usersnap (a visual communication tool for web developers – check it out!) visual communication is everywhere!
Why should you care? And why should you make sure to integrate visual communication into your daily work? We have 4 reasons for you to make you love visual communication even more! 😍
1. Visual communication is faster
Communication is a translation process. In a conversation with another person, we are translating someone’s words into our thoughts and these thoughts into actions or words.
When we are receiving an email, we are reading the email and are translating words into ideas and then back to an action. This is a complex process. We have to:
- read the words and identify individual meaning
- try to figure out what the other person is saying
- respond to the email or do another kind of required action.
Understanding, what someone is trying to say in a written form requires mental capacities.
In fact, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
Visual communication happens in a split second, while verbal communication is a process that develops over time. In general, in verbal communication, we have to construct meaning ourselves. In visual communication, meaning is presented.
That means the process of understanding complex issues is much faster when it comes to visual communication.
In the following example, a typo is noticed in the word “Dashboard”. Just putting an arrow next to it shows the error immediately.
By contrast, if you would need to communicate the typo verbally, you would need to describe the exact location of the word “dashboard”, which is likely to be a complex description that would read something like this:
“I noticed a typo in the word “Dashboard”. It’s on our Main Dashboard Page, right in the middle. Please add an “a” to ensure a correct spelling. Thanks!”
2. It makes collaboration a breeze
We eat our own dog food for sure, but we developed Usersnap out of a personal need and that need was to find a better mode for collaboration. Before starting Usersnap, we had a web development agency and it would take forever to communicate design changes if you were not sitting directly next to the person you were working with.
Imagine you are collaborating on a new web project and you are exchanging design feedback with your colleagues. If you are using email as your main communication tool you have to translate what you see on your screen into words; while the receiver of your email has to translate your written account to what he or she is seeing on a screen. This is where information gets lost or misinterpreted.
If you send a screenshot instead, with a red arrow, marking the different font size or a typo, the receiver would be able to see the problem immediately.
He or she would not have spent energy on understanding the problem but could have focussed on fixing the problem instead.
In short: Visual communication speeds up the process of understanding an idea, a challenge, a suggestion.
3. It is more memorable
We remember visuals better because they are processed in our long-term memory.
(According to Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development)
Think about a recent newspaper article you read: Chances are higher that you can remember the header image than recount specific phrases or quotes from the article.
Burmark writes about the phenomenon that we remember pictures and visual clues better than words:
“…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) […]. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”
While words are stored in the short term memory, visuals are stored in the long-term memory.
4. It makes communication more personal
“The world told is a different world to the world shown.” – Gunter Kress
“The world told is a different world to the world shown”, writes Gunther Kress, a professor of semiotics and education at the University of London, in an essay titled “Literacy in the New Media Age”.
While cultural pessimists are concerned with the tendency that meaning is no longer constructed in visual communication (as is the case in verbal language), but rather implied, visual communication is also an opportunity. An opportunity to express emotions more readily with pictures, GIFs, and emojis, and to let others participate in the world that is happening inside of us.
Pictures and emojis are proxies for our inner self – it is not us who are showing their real feelings – we show them by proxy of an emoji. Love, joy, anger, and sadness are easily expressed in emojis like these: 😍🙂😡😢 And still, they make it easier to relate to one another, to understand a feeling, a mood, a situation much better and relate in a way that takes personal feelings into account. In short: it is much harder to write “I feel sad” or “This makes me angry” than to send an emoji expression an emotional reality.
Wrapping it up.
Visual communication is everywhere, in our personal and business lives. There are many reasons to embrace communicating visually, four of them that we have outlined in this article. And yet, with visual communication being such a broad field it is important to find out what works best for you and your team.