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Why you need to always use images with your content.

The human brain responds differently to images than to language. Research tells us that our brains decode language in a sequential, linear fashion while multiple images can be interpreted simultaneously.

Media theorist, John Berger, wrote:

Seeing becomes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.

Words are processed by our short term memory while images settle in our long term memory; so, unless the words that we publish as marketers are linked to an image, it will probably not be retained in our long term memory. Not only do visual elements enrich the message and contribute to clear communication but it also affects us psychologically.

Images have an effect on us in 2 major ways:

  • Images and graphics advance our communication by increasing understanding, recollection and retention. Images serve as visual clues which help to trigger memories.
  • Images ‘turns on’ our creative thinking and awakens our imagination in a way that words often can’t, so it affects our emotions and our outlook.

Visual stimuli have the ability to influence decision making. In a study at the University of Minnesota, School of Management, it was found that presenters who used visual aids were perceived as 43% more persuasive by their audience, compared to presenters who didn’t use any visuals. Furthermore, they also found that average presenters who used visual aids were just as effective as more advanced presenters who used no visual aids.

Therefore, it stands to reason that a relevant and beautiful image will greatly enrich an average piece of written content for the reader. First prize is always a beautifully written piece but without an image, it will also come second to an equally well-written piece accompanied by an image.

The need for imagery in our reading material has also spilled over into educational books. For example, a comparison of science textbooks from 1936 and 1988 showed that far more graphics were used in the more recent text books, and this has increased even more since then. We see the power of images and graphics in our lives every day – informational or directional signage, icons and symbols, warning signs, maps, info graphics, etc. In SA, with its 11 official languages, signage is often a simpler, clearer form of communication than using a language with a more universal audience.

Without graphics, an idea may be lost in a sea of words. – Robert E. Horn

In a recent study at Stanford University, participants were asked to evaluate a number of websites. Almost half (46%) stated that the website’s design (the look, the layout) was the number 1 criterion for discerning the credibility of the written content.

A recent movement towards using sliders on websites (large landscape images that rotate with a few other, related brand images) and a Pinterest style layout (a number of blocks with images that represents different areas of the website showcasing different brand offerings with little text) further serves to illustrate the movement towards an image-heavy website in favour of text-heavy pages.

Credit: Mike Parkinson’s article called “The Power of Visual Communication”