Make Your Messages More Memorable with Pictures
I was visiting a client of mine at the local children's hospital today. Since my practice focuses on medical professionals, I have visited many hospitals. But today there was a sign I noticed and thought was great. It read, Did you know your sneeze can travel faster than a Cheetah? Then it showed side by side images of a cheetah and nose. Under the cheetah it showed 75 miles per hour and under the nose it showed 100 miles per hour. Of course, the takeaway message was "Please cover your cough and sneezes. Always remember to clean your hands. Infection prevention saves lives."
I bet you've been in a hospital or doctor's office with a similar message about covering your cough or sneeze. But I bet now that you've heard this analogy and seen the image, the message will stick with you longer. In fact, you may even think about the analogy the next time you see a sign like that.
Why do I say that? Because we can process images 60,000 faster than we process text. The brain processes pictures all at once, but processes text in a linear fashion so it takes longer—much longer—to get information from text. One recent study at MIT found that people could process images in as little as 13 milliseconds, nearly 10 times faster than previously measured. In fact, when it comes to understanding something quickly, humans are "visually wired," meaning we remember only about 20% of what we hear, and about 80% of what we see. It's also estimated that 65% of the population are visual learners, so images will resonate with a bigger portion of the audience.
The brain has an automatic ability to detect small differences—for example, in size or color. In fact, about half of our brain is dedicated to processing visual information. Some studies indicate that we do over 300% better following directions when they're accompanied with illustrations. Did you notice in the image they also included a cartoon of someone covering up their cough?
Here's the great thing about visual information: as long as we have some understanding of what the colors and symbols refer to, we are able to understand the main message or story, even before we are aware of doing so. It happens as a pre-conscious activity.
So why was this sign good? Great graphic images do three simple things (which are difficult to do all at the same time): Surprise, Delight, and Inform. In terms of surprise, you want to think about presenting the unusual. Surprise? Check! You don't expect to see a cheetah and a big nose being compared; it almost draws you in. When you make the image fun an audience will spend more time on the image. Delight? Check! I looked at that sign today longer than I've ever really looked at a "cover your sneeze" sign. Finally, of course, it concisely told us what do: cover our cough and wash our hands. Inform? Check!