Why a Visual really is worth 1,000 words

David Vaassen - Friday, January 29, 2016

Just about everyone has stumbled over a confusing passage in a textbook, only to have clarity restored thanks to “See Fig. A.”

Visuals, graphics, and charts can concentrate and present information in a way that sticks. Skill in visual communication has become nearly as indispensable as clear, compelling writing.

To borrow an example from author Mike Parkinson, the usefulness of text paired with visuals becomes obvious when you try to answer, “What is a circle?”

Mike Parkinson "what is a circle?"

Using just one or the other can create needless confusion and demand more effort from the reader. The sweet spot is in showing and telling. In that spirit, let’s look at a few ways to effectively communicate with visuals.

1. Look for flaws in text-only presentation.

What’s the most difficult thing to understand when sharing the information through text? This is a useful question to begin with when defining why a visual would help.

Parents familiar with Astro Cat’s Frontiers in Space may recall this example of what the solar system would look like if the Earth were the size of a cherry tomato:

if the earth was a cherry tomoato

The problem with using just text to describe the size of planets is the poor job it does of illustrating scale—knowing Jupiter’s surface area is 6.1419×1010 km2 doesn’t mean much, because it’s too large to perceive. With a visual, we gain a concrete sense of how big the Earth is compared to the other planets.

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Curated from http://www.helpscout.net/blog/visual-communication/

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