Visuals: Illustrations and Photos

A photo is processed a thousand times faster than words. This happens because the human brain processes many impressions from the photo in parallel. This is opposed to a written sentence, which is time consuming for the brain to process because is happens linearly. Using a good illustration or photo is therefore highly beneficial in order to create the right images in the minds of the audience.

There are many types of visuals to use in science communication. Graphs, drawings, animations, videos and photos are the most common ones and they can portray anything from lab setups to figuratively representations of some non-visible phenomenon like for instance an electron.

Visuals will quickly and efficiently create the right image in the minds of the audience, but in the same way it was be used positively it can also potentially destroy your presentation or article if it plants the wrong mental image. Different audience groups will also interpret visuals differently – some elements speak to the older generation and some to the younger. Showing e.g. a cassette tape to children will mostly lead to more questions than answers, and this will in the end work in your disadvantage.

Another attention point regarding visuals is copyright. It is important to make sure that the copyright of the photo owner is not violated. Some services offer photos for free when the owner is credited correctly, and in these cases it will usually appear on the website of the photo service.

Illustrations are powerful. In a glance, you can provide the audience with an immediate understanding.