Scientific Reasons Why Visual Communication WorksJul 01, 2019
Katy Cesarotti | Gallery Design Studio Editor + Copywriter
Design is sometimes thought of as an art — a combination of appealing colors and layouts that looks nice and maybe seems like an afterthought.
But neuroscience shows that design has specific, measurable impact on the human brain.
By manipulating how your brand appears on a screen, companies can control how customers will respond and create more purposeful messaging.
These science-driven applications of visual communication can help you create original, never-been-done content and get measurable results from your messaging.
1. Visuals are scientifically proven to help your messaging “stick”
In the United States, people spend an average of six hours and 31 minutes online each day. Potential clients click through hundreds of pages, articles, social media posts and emails.
What does it take to make your brand memorable?
When people hear information, they’re likely to only remember 10% of that information after three days, according to HubSpot. But if you pair a relevant image with that same information, retention leaps to 65% of the information after three days.
This happens because of the picture superiority effect, a phenomenon that neuroscientists have been studying for years. Research shows that people can remember better images than words, especially when studying memory over time.
No matter how cleverly it’s written, only extremely interested users will read every word of your content. One study found that most readers only scroll through about half of the articles they read — even though they’ll see all of the photo or video.
Interactive is even better. In one consumer survey, twice as many people said interactive content is more memorable than static. Even simple interactions enhance the originality of your content. Gifs and motion graphics invite your users to engage at a level you just can’t get with a static print page.
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For better recall, pair your content with relevant, helpful visuals that add clarity. Incorporate illustrations, diagrams or graphs that visualize your key points. Pair testimonials with images of real customers.
2. Repurpose data you already have visually
Content marketing goes stale when it relies on recycling the same old content that dozens of competitors are pushing out. Your audience is looking for information that is both valuable and original — not a carbon copy of something else.
How can you develop content that’s completely unique to your business?
Your customers are your greatest source of insight and inspiration. We live in the world of big data. Often client data doesn’t require additional expensive surveys or information-gathering campaigns—data visualization can give a little more mileage out of the information you’re already collecting.
One great example is Zillow. During Pride Month, the company published a series of articles and infographics that republish data they had already collected, connecting it to a timely event. The visuals offered entertaining tidbits of knowledge that readers could only get from Zillow.
Does your business collect information that might be interesting to a wider public audience? Take a look at non-confidential data you collect that you might be able to share.
What original insights or fresh perspectives can you offer, based on how people are using your service?
Data visualization ensures that clients interpret your information in the way you want them to, connecting the dots to reach the right conclusion. Graphs, charts or infographics can help readers put raw numbers into context. While research and facts boost your credibility, data visualization can make abstract statistics feel concrete.
For example: no one will actually see a trillion dollars in their lifetime. To help consumers get their heads around such an impossible total, David McCandless created the graphic below:
3. Make clients “feel” your messaging with metaphors
Metaphors aren’t just the realm of high school poetry classes. In everyday conversation, people actually use metaphors all the time—to communicate complex ideas (“think of neurons as trees and the brain as a forest”) or to make connections (“It’s like Airbnb for camping”).
While we logically process statistics, we feel stories. A visual metaphor can help your audience access, connect with and remember your message. It can turn a complex, complicated idea into something that your audience is already familiar with — and, even better, something they resonate with. A visual metaphor creates a narrative with more emotional staying power for your clients.
Words that evoke taste, touch, sight, smell or sound work on the same level. Activate your audience’s senses to spark engagement. Studies show that reading sensory words like “cinnamon” triggers the same areas of the brain that light up when people actually taste cinnamon. By activated of the sensory cortex, you can engage your customers more deeply and hold their attention.
Incorporate visual metaphors into how-to or explainer videos to walk users through a specific task. In infographics, a thematic visual metaphor can create unity between different charts or facts.
4. Make content more scannable with custom icons
It’s important enough to say again: no one reads every word of your content. One study found that readers will most likely only read about 20% of the words on a page online.
How can your messaging get through to users who don’t even read?
Our brains can find meaning in a symbol in a quarter of a second — literally less than a blink of an eye, which can take up to .4 seconds. Icons can help your users process the most important information on the page faster, and find what they’re looking for more quickly.
A few strategically placed icons can improve the user experience and add visual interest.
But be careful. Icons are the equivalent of an exclamation point: use too many and they lose all meaning. Just like all statements can’t be equally enthusiastic! And exciting! Icons are similar. Too many and they become distracting, disrupting the reader’s eye instead of helping them.
Several websites online, like icon8, offer free packages of icons based on commonly used symbols. Why not just download one of those?
The problem with free icons is that everyone is already using them. Your website or digital presence will blend in with everyone else’s, instead of representing your unique personality. Customizing your icons ensure that they look uniform, with even weights, sizes and colors, and no grainy pixilation. Custom icons will match your branding perfectly.
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If your company needs to translate complex information into useful material for your customers, strategic graphics can help you do that. Done right, design can help customers remember more, create content no one else can copy, and make information more accessible.
About Gallery Design Studio
We're passionate about helping B2B businesses with their ongoing marketing communication design needs. We help our clients transmit complex information clearly, concisely and in a visually engaging way. Relentlessly curious, we're inspired by experimentation, and always looking for better ways to serve our clients.
We’ve collaborated with transformational businesses, both startups and more established companies such as Townes Wireless, Questback and CIT Bank.
- Communication and Marketing Design
- Video & Animation
- Web & App design (UX/UI)
- Digital Customer Experience Design (DCX)
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About the Writer
Katy Cesarotti is a copywriter at Gallery Design Studio. Katy believes that, with clear and concise copy, innovators can spark emotion and drive action in their readers. She’s written for magazines, blogs and cutting-edge startups.