“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” 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.”
Whoever controls the media—the images—controls the culture. – Alan Ginsberg
Considering that Alan Ginsberg was a poet and an author and not a photographer or visual artist, this admission from him speaks volumes.
This week I am on a campaign to explain why images are vital to online communication, powerpoint–as well as to books, as illustration.
I have an experiment for you. How impressed are you with the following comment:
I Want You
I dare to say that the previous sentence is not very impressive to most people.
Let’s try it again. Let’s try it in bold:
I Want You
That is still fairly unimpressive. Let’s try the words as a quote:
I Want You
Well, at least I see the words now. The words are separated from the rest of the text. Let’s try bolding the words, putting them in a quote
I Want You
With every added action on the words, we make them more noticeable. Now, let’s try turning the words into images:
By merely placing the word inside a decorative frame, changing the colors and sizes, our three words are definitely beginning to stand out. Take a peek at how an image, combined with three words, moved an entire country into action:
“Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” this portrait of ‘Uncle Sam’ went on to become–according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg–“the most famous poster in the world.” Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and matériel into war zones” – .http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm015.html
“As early as the late nineteenth century, advertisers, based on their collective experience, were convinced that illustrations sold goods.” – http://billiondollargraphics.com/infographics.html
Clearly, we are more drawn to the poster with Uncle Sam’s image on it than we are to the poster without the image, and the poster with words is far more impressive than the first strings of mere words. The famous Uncle Sam poster was created 100 years ago, as propoganda to encourage people to enlist in the World War I effort. In no time, that poster became the most famous poster of all time, and its value is still recognized. If people, 100 years ago, responded better to images than to text, imagine how much greater the need for text is now–in the 21st Century, when texting, multitasking, tweeting, and other hurried efforts to communicate, are distracting potential viewers.
“So visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, graphics quickly affect our emotions, and our emotions greatly affect our decision-making. If most of our decisions are based on relatively quick intuitional judgment and emotions, then how many decisions are influenced by visually appealing, easily digested graphics? The answer is no secret to advertisers.
Billions of dollars are spent annually to find the right imagery to sell a product, service, or idea. The United States Military spent $598 million in 2003 on advertising to increase “brand identity” and meet their annual recruitment goals. Nike spent $269 million in 2001 on its image to sell their products. Anheuser-Busch spent $440 million to promote its products in 2001. Pepsi budgeted over $1 billion in 2001 on its image. Not to be out done, Coca-Cola budgeted $1.4 billion for its image in the same year. Graphics help create “brand identity.” Visuals paint the picture of who the advertiser is, what they stand for, and how the audience may benefit. Graphics sell because of their ability to influence. How you use graphics greatly affect how you and your business are perceived.
Study after study, experiment after experiment has proven that graphics have immense influence over the audience’s perception of the subject matter and, by association, the presenter (the person, place, or thing most associated with the graphic) because of these neurological and evolutionary factors. The audience’s understanding of the presented material, opinion of the presented material and the presenter, and their emotional state are crucial factors in any decision they will make. Without a doubt, graphics greatly
influence an audience’s decisions. Whoever properly wields this intelligence has a powerful advantage over their competition.”