Have you ever wondered why a single picture can send shivers down your spine, make you cry out laughing, or leave you feeling excited to discover something new?
Or why you can go to an art gallery and spend hours looking through a series of paintings?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And I couldn’t agree more.
A single image can convey complex concepts, ideas, and emotions much more effectively than a long description. There are so many layers, subtle details, and hidden meanings behind a single image.
Let’s have a look why images speak louder than words.
Images can communicate information at lightning speed
An image can be understood almost instantly (or in as little as 13 milliseconds to be exact) while reading 1000 words would take considerably more time.
According to Krista Neher, the human brain can process images up to 60,000 times faster than words. With an image you can convey so much information and that same information can be conveyed so much more quickly than in words.
Imagine you go to an art gallery, and you see a painting that really captures your attention. You instantly understand what it is trying to communicate. Imagine then you want to explain it to a friend who isn’t there – it takes a lot of words to do that, and it somehow doesn’t have quite the same effect as seeing it in person. In fact, it could take up to 1000 words to describe what’s happening in a single picture.
Images are universal
Pictures transcend language barriers. With images, it doesn’t matter about language, or to a large extent, culture. Regardless of a person’s native language, a well-crafted image can be understood and appreciated by people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
In contrast, words are not understood by people who don’t speak the language and words often get lost in translation. Think about idioms such as ‘cold turkey’, ‘go pear shaped’, or ‘cat got your tongue’ – they often don’t translate to other languages. Even across the same language people use different words. Think about how word choice varies between the UK, the USA, and Australia e.g. petrol station in the UK, gas station in the USA, and service station in Australia.
With words, there is so much opportunity for miscommunication. This isn’t so prevalent with the use of images.
Images help us to remember
Have you ever been faced with the task of reading a long text-heavy document and struggle to recall all the important points afterwards?
A lot of words can overwhelm people. Adding a relevant, compelling photo can engage readers with the text and help them to remember what you said. After all, a striking image can leave a lasting impression on the viewer.
Studies show that people only remember 10% of what they hear after three days. However, if you pair the material with a relevant image, people can remember 65% of the information after three days (Brain Rules).
Why is this so? Humans are highly visual beings. We tend to remember images better than written or spoken information. 65 percent of the general population are visual learners, meaning they need to see information in order to retain it. Furthermore, images have the power to evoke strong emotions, making them memorable and impactful.
Images enable you to communicate abstract and complex concepts
Do you find seeing things represented visually helps you understand them? I know I do.
Pictures can simplify complex ideas by visually representing them.
Imagine you want to convey complex information. If you try to describe it in words, you need to explain a number of steps each with a number of sub-steps to follow. With the help of a visual aid, such as an image or diagram, you can help simplify the process. Charts, graphs, and diagrams can make data and information more accessible and understandable.
Images also enable you to communicate abstract and complex concepts better than words. Imagine you need to describe emotions, facial expressions, or body language. These are so much easier to digest when we see them rather than describe them in writing.
In conclusion, in today’s fast-paced world people are busy. They struggle to find time to sit down and read long documents. However, if you capture the essence of your message in an image, you have a much better chance of engaging your audience. Images do a great job at grabbing our attention and helping to maintain it. Whether you are posting on social media or writing a report, images make the information more impactful, memorable, and shareable. But to be truly successful, they need to be combined with compelling words that support the message in the image.