Using visuals to achieve your goals

By Sara Williscroft

Visuals are playing an increasing role in meeting communications objectives. They are front and centre in social media, critical in office presentations and growing in demand in briefing packages. But how do you incorporate visuals that make a difference to your goals?

Laurie Griffin, Principal, Griffin Communications, is a strategic communicator with a passion for graphic design. In fact, she is the designer and strategist behind IABC/Calgary’s previous Chapter logo and current Connecting you (i.e. the bridges) brand roll-outs. Here’s her advice on creating effective visuals that make sense.

1. Know where your communications objectives and audience emotions intersect

Answer the question: Who is my audience and what do I want my audience to feel, think and do in support of communications goals after looking at the material? Some communications objectives might be more focused on the think side (informing, educating, etc.). In that event, lots of statistics and facts might be presented in an infographic, or a side bar of an article.

Sometimes, you might be more focused on the feeling side (persuading, motivating, inspiring, etc.), in which case you let images, appropriately paired with concise, persuasive messages do the talking. If you have a direct call to action, which every material should have, allow the reader to travel logically from feel, think and do.

Note: the feeling comes first. Research shows us that people are impacted by emotion first, and once you’ve found the door to their heart, you can access the brain through logic. Don’t leave the burden of all your communications objectives or messages to one medium.

Careerline infographic: If you have a lot of facts to share about a service, an infographic could be a useful tool to convey messages. Sometimes your overall design and approach will be shaped by multiple priorities. Normally I might have used an image containing more of a human element, but since this infographic also coincided with the roll-out of IABC/Calgary’s new bridges brand, I opted to draw the eye across the page using the sweeping motion of the bridge, connecting the target audience (recruiters) to downtown Calgary where so many of our communicators serve. Click to enlarge.

2. Don’t lose the tug-of-war between words and images

You might have 20 amazing, strategic messages, but you only have three seconds to grab the attention of your audience. Let the photos, images and headlines do a lot of the talking because they draw the reader into the story emotionally.

3. Don’t blow all your powder in one keg. Vary your mediums

A larger project or campaign should not put the burden of too many key messages onto one singular communications vehicle, like a webpage or a brochure. Throughout your campaign, you’ll want to reinforce the same messages again and again, but through varying stories and content in each of your mediums.

If your product is too text heavy, ask yourself what needs to go, or be redirected elsewhere. Don’t overwhelm the reader with lots of content on one medium, but also don’t bore the reader with repetitive content across multiple mediums.

4. Make sure your reader has space to breathe. This is in your hands, not the designer’s

If you want your content to travel from the page or the screen and into the mind of your audience, you need the right amount of white or negative space. White space helps guide the eye appropriately around the page according to a hierarchy of important content – images and text.

A good tactic incorporates all of the elements of the communications plan and when put together, the tactics are balanced and present an overall brand that makes sense. Visuals are just part of the puzzle, so talk to your graphic designer and make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to the whole.

Together, you have the best chance of making a difference for your communications plan.

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