The Power (and Risk) of Using Visuals

Visualize What You Wish to Emphasize

Visuals can amplify your text and make your ideas more impactful. We are visual creatures, and the impact of processing an image could be stronger than reading or listening to an idea phrased textually. But with that power comes a risk: a poorly crafted visual can distract the audience or send the wrong message.

An effective visual does not try to capture the complete picture and all possible aspects. An effective visual is focused on the message you choose to emphasize. Whether a chart or an illustrative photo, pick or craft a visual focused precisely on what you wish to convey. Avoid visuals that might confuse your audience or create a dissonance with the message you try to articulate.

An effective visual cannot be crafted before you decide what you wish to say.

Visualize What you Struggle to Express in Words

Visuals that merely repeat an already perfectly expressed message might have some value — we are visual creatures, after all. But the visuals that really shine can express an idea that is much harder to capture accurately or easily in words.

Visualize the ideas that you find harder to express in words. You won’t always manage to simplify an idea using an image, but when you do, something magical happens. Your audience understands the idea better, but you do too. Sometimes, visualization adds a new perspective to a concept you thought you already knew inside out.

Don’t Visualize to Draw Attention

It is easy to fall into the visualization trap. Visuals are more captivating than text, especially when used on platforms encouraging users just to keep scrolling. But when you use visuals to draw your audience’s attention, it shows. The reader might feel deceived when the visual has little to do with the content or when it doesn’t have any value. Sooner or later, your audience will realize you are using visuals to lure them into your text, but for no good reason beyond that. In that sense, visuals used just to draw attention are nothing more than clickbait.

Use visuals only when they have value beyond making the reader stop scrolling.

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