A picture can (usually) say a thousand words

Images play a very relevant role in publications. When used with thought and care, they can evoke emotions in the viewer. Photographer Susan McConnell said good photographs make us feel. Strong feelings create appreciation, compassion, and urgency, which mold the choices we make as individuals and as a society.

Viva Virginia Master Class; string quartet members; music.

Graphics engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking by stimulating other areas of our brain (which in turn leads to a more profound and accurate understanding of the presented material).

Choosing the right photo(s) is crucial when designing a publication, website, etc., while the wrong photo or a poor-quality photo can easily destroy the message. For example, an image of a dimly-lit classroom with the participants’ backs to the viewer would not be a good choice for a publication promoting a workshop or conference.

Writer Helen Stark says text gives our ideas a precision that we can rarely approach with images alone. Text also plays the central role in SEO (search engine optimization), being the only data we can say with certainty that search engines understand perfectly. Although text can be enough to invoke imagery without the use of pictures, a compelling image will usually engage the viewer more quickly.

Following is an example from the blog “Letting go” (Nov. 23, 2015) of how text can create an emotional response much like a photograph.

Apricot season in the countryside, calls from friends in the city asking where they can buy ripe red apricots. In a fortnight, there will be water melons and honeydew melons (our “spanspek” melons) ready for stalls along the roads through farmland. High summer, abundance and fullness, the wheat harvested, white crystal grapes swelling on vines, the deep shady embrace of old oak trees.

Without graphics, an idea can be lost in a myriad of words; without words, a graphic can be vague. Robert E. Horn, an award-winning scholar at Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Language and Information, said, “When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence … visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’ — the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”

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