The rise of image-led communication across the business spectrum, from basic infographics to the full-blown illustrative interpretation of strategies, continues to gain momentum.   In our own business the change is evidenced by many ways; our business plan, which in days gone by would have populated many pages of a decent sized paperback, has now been translated into a one page visual which is simple to grasp, memorable and, therefore, easy to translate into action for every single member of our team.

There is a fascinating article in BA’s Business Life this month which illustrates just how far we have come in understanding the power and many uses of imagery in the business world.  The saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ has been used for generations in the marketing industry but traditionally (for those of us old enough to remember) the saying’s meaning referred to the use of photography to illustrate text – it was assumed that without the words the audience couldn’t possibly be expected to understand what the communication was about. 

Now it seems we have finally turned this thinking on its head and today the picture is increasingly used to communicate the message, replacing most, if not all of the words.  So, if the old saying is still true, and if each 1,000 word article can be replaced by just one picture, communication will continue to become infinitely faster and more streamlined.  Unfortunately for those people whose brains aren’t so able to process images, this may prove challenging but, if we’re to believe the words of experts cited in the BA article, these people are few and far between.

The concept of graphic visualisation is nothing new of course.  Anyone who has seen Ken Robinson’s animated thinking on education will know how powerful live, illustrative interpretation can be when executed well.  The ability to communicate a thousand words through just one image takes the type of skills that not many people possess.  But, from experience, we know that utilising the simplest of pictures to capture and bring elements of a concept together, can certainly help with interpretation of the message.  And, with so many digital tools available, many of which are free, there is really no excuse for any organisation not attempting to use the power of images. 

The simple graphic used in this blog about ‘Conscious Business’ captures beautifully what the author sees as the four essential elements of the concept.  Even if the reader hasn’t the time or the interest to read all of the blog’s text, they will be able to grasp the basics of what the author wants to convey from this simple graphic – job done.

Graphic visualisation has also become an increasingly popular tool for internal communications specialists, especially those responsible for driving internal change.  An image that can map an organisation’s structure, work flow, products, services, customers (internal and external), can be very effective for enhancing engagement and stimulating involvement and ownership.  Channel 4’s corporate workflow graphic is a colourful example.    

The utilisation of graphic facilitation in the work place is a relatively new concept and simply brilliant.  For everything from strategic development to team building, the technique takes meeting facilitation to a completely new level and allows teams to develop something completely unique and memorable that has the ability to help break down barriers. Forget the pack of post-its, coloured pens and flip chart, spending a little extra money on an illustrator to capture the nuances and emotions of a workshop can be worth every penny.

But, with all the excitement about graphics, there is still a significant place for words – the beauty and value of well-chosen words shouldn’t be dismissed.  Like artistic masterpieces themselves, they wear the test of time.  Here are some of the great opening lines from literature as chosen by the Daily Telegraph: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all doing direct the other way”.  We challenge you to try putting all of the depth of emotion and meaning in these words into a picture! 

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