Visually Speaking, Speaking Visually

– By Phoebe Yong

Over the past few weeks, there have been an increased amount of requests from clients to produce collateral – brochures, data / product sheets, company profiles, newsletters – and the most common recommendation that I have for them is, “think visual”. We live in a world bombarded by messages, images, and interruptions.  Less is more. This is why I strongly urge our clients to communicate their messages visually.

Here are three techniques to consider in your upcoming projects:

1.) Use bullets to draw story highlights; we have now taken this approach for press releases, where we highlight the key, “so what,” message to help the reader get to the point more easily. Here is an example on how CNN uses bullets as an article summary.

2.) Use visuals to accompany your message. Our client recently wrote a thoughtful, analytical article on the pending “fiscal cliff” facing the U.S.   I wonder how much more impactful the article would be if we added a picture that speaks a thousand words. Here is the snapshot of article:

“The “Fiscal Cliff” is the popular shorthand term that has been used to describe the problems that the U.S. government will face at the end of 2012, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect.

Among the laws that are going to change when the New Year begins are the end of last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts.  This will result in an increase of 2% of taxes for workers.  It will end certain tax breaks for businesses.  Shifts in the alternative minimum tax will mean a larger bite, and there will be an end to the tax cuts from 2001-2003.  We will also begin to see taxes that are related to President Obama’s health care law.  While all this occurs, spending cuts that were agreed on as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will begin to go into effect.  This will also affect over 1,000 government programs that include the defense budget and Medicare that will fall in line for “deep, automatic cuts”.

According to analysts, lawmakers have three choices when dealing with the fiscal cliff and they do not think any are particular attractive.  The first choice calls for allowing the current policy that is scheduled for 2013 to begin.  This includes a number of tax increases and spending cuts that would weigh heavily on U.S. growth, and could drive the economy back into a recession.  On the plus side, the deficit as a percentage of GDP would be cut in half. The second alternative would include canceling some, possibly all of the scheduled tax increases ad spending cuts.  This would add to the deficit as well as increase the odds that the United States might face a crisis that is similar to the one taking place presently in Europe.  The other side of this choice is that IUS debt continues to grow.  Choice number three would be following a course that heads down the middle, an approach that would address the budget issues to a limited extent, but would have less of an impact in growth.”

If I could add a visual to this piece, I may choose something like this:

3.) Using graphics to give technical details. With high technology companies or any story that requires technical details, using graphics is best way to tell the story. It’s tempting to get into speeds and feeds in your technical piece but consider that most of us, even the most technical audience, are visually based.

Look at how this graphic best illustrates detailed information of the increasing rate of obesity in pets:

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One thought on “Visually Speaking, Speaking Visually

  1. Farouk says:

    Clever use of your own suggestions at the end. Good post.

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