“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Graphic Communication

Visual language is a term introduced by Robert Horn, a pioneer in integrated communication. He went on to say, “Visual language unleashes the full power of communication.” From prehistoric cave drawings to training materials on the latest technology, using graphics as a communication tool has been part of our human experience. The integration of graphics is an incredibly powerful and too often overlooked tool. This isn't reserved for people who are artistically gifted. If you draw a circle with two dots and a curved line people will see a face, and if they don't you can label it.

How important is this?

Before a group of people can agree on the details of any decision they must agree on the concept, and pictures are the quickest and surest way to understanding. We generally recognize the role of visual communication in retention. Jerome Bruner described studies showing that while people remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, they retain about 80% of what they see and do. What is less widely known is the role it plays in communicating a concept. Is a picture really worth a thousand words? It seems that is underestimated, at least in speed. Research at 3M suggests that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. We think and reason largely in images. “Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched." (Lynell Burmark, Ph. D.). Further studies have shown that the human brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner taking more time to process.

How do we use it?

As we work with groups we look for ways to keep information visual. We use graphics when it is appropriate and keep information displayed as we move through the process. This helps people understand the information and integrate it into a final solution.