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Want Stickiness? Underscore with an Image

‘Tis the season for yearly wrap ups, reviews and lists. This post is none of the aforementioned. Yet looking at Yahoo!’s collection of 2011’s “most powerful images” had me mesmerized. You see, I’m a bit of a shutterbug and photofile, often preferring images over books for story-telling purposes. Hand me a picture book and I’m in doggie heaven. I can easily lose a Saturday afternoon lingering over digital, four-color processed, sepia tones and good ol’ black and whites. Here’s why:

There’s something so compelling about a moment that is frozen in time that often goes beyond what a narrative can play out. It’s the power to evoke. In Yahoo!’s collection there is the loss that a father feels for a fallen son, devastation of the Tsunami that ravaged Japan and the tornado that ripped the town of Joplin from its foundation. There’s the tender joy in loved ones marrying after a life together, awe as a dust storm roars through Phoenix, and an enduring bond between a dog and master that neither panes of glass nor the ending of life itself could extinguish.

These photos are rich stories that beg us to become involved in the action, the emotion, the moment. They allow us to imagine “what if we were there” in a way that is much more economical than the written word.

We’ve written about this in these pages before. Troy Larson asks the question in his earlier blog post, “When is a picture is worth 2,403 pages?” and Jess Bachman’s answer is in an image that distills the enormity of federal budget to a snapshot. David Hill’s and Lisa Frigand’s guide map of the expansive relationships between the agencies required to rebuild  Manhattan after 9/11 is example that’s so illustrative of the enormous undertaking that the New York Museum of Modern Art has accepted it into its permanent collection.

My answer to Troy’s question above is “When it communicates as much as 2,403 pages.” That’s a lot of financial text I won’t have wade through, thank you!

Imagery has the power to communicate quickly and vividly, which is why businesses invest in charts, PowerPoints, graphics and information maps. It gives business communications stickiness. For instance, one of Mindjet’s customers uses information maps in new employee training and onboarding. Simply put by the HR director, “The employees retain more.” In later posts, Troy shows why this is so. He offers up a video that shows how the brain is wired to memorize pictures and provides the benefits to visual communication  so no need to elaborate here.  Check these out for a deeper dive.

And there is more good news on the business front. Visual tools can also help workers better manage the challenges of an ever-accelerating work day. A recent Mindjet study in the UK (To view the infographic on results click here) revealed that workers are drowning in data, costing businesses £1,249 per employee, per year.  Noted Neurobiologist Mo Costandi says that the brain is not good at multi-tasking the enormous variety of information that workers receive daily, but explains that visualizing information can help:
“Visualizing information could help us to see the bigger picture and understand connections between pieces of information, but the way we work doesn’t usually allow for this, and that’s why we can feel overloaded and struggle to make sense of what we can process. We have to get better at managing it – this is where technology can help, if used in the right way,” he says.

The future of visualization products seems like a greenfield opportunity as businesses discover new ways to use visuals, helping the employee brain to be more productive and creative – boosting efficiency, results and job satisfaction.

If you want to look into this further here’s a couple of Visual Infonistas that are worth following:

What about you?  What are some of your favorite places to get visual ideas?

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