What is Visual Communication and Why Does it Matter?

Visual Communication

To understand the relevance of visual communication, just think of the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It is also important to remember that an image can have different meanings, depending on the region. It follows that only a Latin America-based digital marketing agency will know how to connect with the local population, and avoid unfortunate lapses.

Furthermore, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it takes about 13 milliseconds for a human brain to understand a picture. Hence why the world of marketing and advertising is so attached to visual resources: messages are transmitted in the literal blink of an eye.

However, saving time is not the be-all and end-all. There are many other advantages to communicating through images which are worth considering. Let’s take a look at some of them here.

Mental model: the foundation of all visual communications

Each individual has a mental model that constitutes everything we learn and experience throughout life: culture, beliefs, values, self-image, generalizations, paradigms, assumptions.

Let’s sum up its definition with this phrase by the writer Anaïs Nin: “we do not see things as they are, but as we are”.

In order to communicate through visuals, we need to understand the mental model of our target audience, i.e. what perceptions and feelings people will have about a particular image.

This understanding may vary according to the city, country and continent we are considering, as mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Synesthesia and sensory marketing

Being able to instantly connect with the consumer is amazing, right? In addition, visual communication can stimulate emotions and sensations in people, something which words aren’t always capable of.

Through sensory marketing, a strategy derived from experiential marketing, it is possible to create synesthetic images that engage our five senses. For example, the fast food companies’ tactic of using colors that induce hunger in their branding.

It is also very common for lipstick brands to associate their fragrances with strawberries, tutti-frutti, oranges and other foods that please people’s senses of both smell and taste.

Affordances in User Experience

Faced with the rise of e-commerce, brands have become increasingly concerned with people’s experience on websites and other digital products. An example of this is the dedication of design professionals towards creating intuitive interfaces.

Doing so means turning to affordances, images, icons and objects whose workings we intuitively understand – like a door handle or a light switch.

In the digital realm, this feature is widely used to simulate the real world and prevent pages from becoming too polluted with information. An example of a very common affordance in e-commerce is the shopping cart icon, used to illustrate the action of “picking up” a product and then completing the purchase at checkout.

This allows the consumer to navigate smoothly until they reach their goal, whether it’s buying an item, learning how to use a product, creating an account or just finding out more about a company.

Accessible communication

When we appropriate visual communication, we also need to consider alternatives that allow persons with disabilities (PWDs) to understand them too, such as descriptions of images and products.

Even where sighted users are concerned, it’s important to choose a color palette carefully, and consider the vision of users with colorblindness, autism, low vision, cataracts and other impairments.

It’s a lot to think about, right? So here are some guidelines, proposed by the World Wide Web Consortium, that will hopefully clarify the necessary measures to take:

  • Do not use colors to communicate important information. Instead, prioritize icons and text;
  • Invest in a strong contrast between colors and elements, so that both stand out;
  • Consider the size of elements, fonts and contexts of use, i.e. when users are trying to navigate on their cell phone during a sunny day;
  • Use saturation and lightness to ensure color recognition for any user. This means increasing the saturation of colors so that they stand out, darkening the darkest colors and lightening the lightest ones.

In general, visual communication resembles literal communication, in that it requires considerable reflections on regionalisms, meanings, accessibility and impact. This applies to your branding too.

Images can be both supporting and main characters when connecting with people and taking them to a new world, or even to a nostalgic past.


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