Visual Thinking: Do you see our point?

By Ross Coverdale

In our previous blog post, we let you in on our idea-generation process, and gave you an insight into how we came upon the world of network science explored in our white papers.

If you’ve seen any of this content recently you’ll have noticed that we’ve made a shift into using more visuals, but it’s about far more than just making something pretty!

We’re constantly playing around with our delivery style, and it all comes down to the relationship between ideas and how they are delivered.

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Our approach has usually been to take the ideas from our research and insights, think about the planning around these ideas, and then write up a blog post, throwing in a couple of nice images.

This is the approach that the majority of online content creators follow – lots of text, a couple of visuals. This is fine, but what you end up with is this:

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It’s not about right or wrong.

It’s really important to note that we’re not saying that this way is right and 95% of other businesses are wrong – after all, people like to read, and we realise that in order to flesh out ideas in a lot of detail, visuals don’t always cut it, but it’s about the balance.

So, to go back to the relationship between ideas and delivery, the process used to always be in one direction, where ideas were delivered and that was the end of the process.

What we found really interesting was when we were approaching ideas visually, it would often change the way we decided to communicate them – The 21st Century Networking Handbook was a prime example of this; there were lots of iterations before we settled on content that told the story and got our point across.

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What happened during this process is that a feedback loop emerged, where the ideas would impact the delivery of said ideas, which would then in turn impact the ideas again, which would impact the delivery again!

The thing about visuals…

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People see ideas differently, but when you’re trying to elaborate on a thought and relate it to a specific situation or experience, by creating content in a vacuum you’re only assuming that it all makes sense.

Everyone knows that visuals are more engaging, but why is that? We think it’s down to a couple of reasons.

1. They get people to use the right-hand side of their brains, rather than living in a left-hand world of processing logical information (predominant in text)

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2. Something we touch on in our latest white paper in a networking context; attention is a commodity these days, especially with the ‘digital deluge’ of emails, tweets, meeting requests, blog posts and so on.

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Everyone knows that images grab your attention, but by moving from the text-heavy format and visualising more elements of the content we hope to:

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We’ve been using visuals in our internal communications too, and we’re noticing increased engagement within our company as well as our external audience.

Better reader experience = better user experience

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This area, we’ve discovered, is a very visual subject – I’ve tried on numerous occasions to explain to people how networks are constructed and so on, and it usually involves a lot of arm flailing or grabbing random objects to place them on the table.

Academic textbooks have this same problem – it’s all very text text [image] text text [image] text. Complex diagrams are followed by pages of text, and then they ask you to flip back and forth – this results in a poor user experience.

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We featured this network diagram in our white papers – our aim was to demonstrate the different types of connections and clusters within a social network. We had to really think about how the ideas in the paper interact, and by sketching it out we were able to do this in a relatively straightforward way that (we hope!) is easy enough to understand.

Back to feedback loops…

As we established at the beginning of this post, to us, how we deliver ideas is as important as the ideas themselves – this is just one way of getting our thoughts across.

This is still a text and visual based post, but here’s a really quick question…

Do you think this post conveys the ideas well, or would you like to see even more visuals?

Answers in the comments below please! :)

(Doodles by Scott Torrance)

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