Visual language for designers

visual_languageVisual Language for Designers: Principles for Creating Graphics That People Understand
By Connie Malamed

This is a great read for those of us who are harnessing the power of visuals to highlight our content.

Within every picture is a hidden language that conveys a message, whether it is intended or not. This language is based on the ways people perceive and process visual information.

By understanding visual language as the interface between a graphic and a viewer, designers and illustrators can learn to inform with accuracy and power.

In a time of unprecedented competition for audience attention and with an increasing demand for complex graphics, “Visual Language for Designers” explains how to achieve quick and effective communications.

New in paperback, this book presents ways to design for the strengths of our innate mental capacities and to compensate for our cognitive limitations.

“Visual Language for Designers” includes:
–How to organize graphics for quick perception
–How to direct the eyes to essential information
–How to use visual shorthand for efficient communication
–How to make abstract ideas concrete
–How to best express visual complexity
–How to charge a graphic with energy and emotion

About the author: Connie Malamed has a background in art and cognitive psychology, with a B.S. in Art Education and an M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology. She is a consultant based in the Washington, D.C. area in the fields of e-learning, visual communication, media design, and information design.

The book is available from Book Depository, Fishpond, The Nile and Amazon

Prepare and choose your visuals so they work for and not against you

Visuals can provide you with powerful support in your speeches and presentations … if you let them.

If you allow it, visuals are a wonderful way of keeping attention, because they add another element of variety and change.

If that attention, however, is aimed more at how you are dealing with an object or if it is more on the object itself than on your message, then it has failed in its duty. If the PowerPoint slides are more interesting in themselves than what you are saying about them, then they have failed in their duty.

These visuals have to be used to support, not detract from, you and what you are saying.

You need to prepare, for this to happen. Think about how you will use them in terms of your own physical presence and stage design. It is you and your message that the attention needs to be aimed at.

Practise how you will handle your objects, how you will display them so that the process is seamless and amplifies your message – at all times. Turn off the screen if you want the attention to be on you. Keep the slides simple if you want people to listen to what you say rather then read what is written. Design your presentation so that the visual aids are just that – aids – and they can be a powerful source of attention and engagement.

If you allow it, visuals can also work as a powerful multiplier of the impact of the words you use. Your audience’s brains are tuned in to pictures and images. So an image will multiply the point and the message that the words deliver (“a picture paints a thousand words”), and will reinforce what your audience is hearing as they look.  

Keep the slides simple with as little text as possible to allow the images to do their work.

You will certainly lose engagement if your audience thinks you are treating them as stupid – needing you to read to them something they can read for themselves.  

You just need to remember that the image needs to support the message of your words, so choose it wisely. 

Choose, too, where and when in your presentation to use visuals so they will create their most impact and support.

Choose them, too, so that your audience relates to them, so that they support your credibility and support your authenticity and support your brand.

Visuals really can do all of that – build credibility, authenticity and brand, build engagement and maintain audience attention. If you plan, prepare and strategize their use they are powerful allies in your presentations.

© Bronwyn Ritchie … If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it: Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Get her 30 speaking tips FREE and boost your public speaking mastery over 30 weeks. Join now or go to

Visual communication – how to create and use charts for successful executive presentations

Say It With Charts: The Executive’s Guide to Visual Communication

Gene Zelazny

Look to this comprehensive presentation encyclopedia for information on: how to prepare different types of charts – pie, bar, column, line, or dot – and when to use each; hands-on recommendations on lettering size, color choice, appropriate chart types, and more; and, techniques for producing dramatic e-Visuals using animation, scanned images, sound, video, and links to pertinent websites.

‘Say It With Charts, 4th Edition”, shows you how to put your message in visual form and translate information and ideas into persuasive, powerful charts, visuals, and multimedia presentations – holding your audience’s attention as you communicate exactly what you want, with no confusion.

Audio Visual Presentations

Even the best messages can be ruined by a bad presentation. To get your information across effectively and to generate the right response from your audience, you need to know how to use audiovisual technology to your advantage.

Interested in how to improve your presentation? Read on for some audiovisual presentation dos and don’ts. =>

Tell Powerful Stories with Pictures: A National Geographic Photographer Shares Tips for Speakers (WEBINAR)

with Dick Durrance

A speech or presentation is in part a visual experience for the audience. Some speakers avoid using A/V equipment, but many others find that adding a visual component helps their audience focus and learn.
It’s common advice today, for those who use media like PowerPoint or slides, that visuals should be *visual*—use more images on screen and fewer words.
But how do you select—or create—the best images? If you want to use photos, come learn from Dick Durrance, one of the world’s top photographers who now uses that background to add impact as a professional speaker.
Dick will show us what to look for in a picture—and how to take our own—to add power and depth to our message.

To illustrate his points, Dick will use more than 75 pictures created for National Geographic assignments, global advertising campaigns, the world’s great golf courses, and the national parks. He’ll show you how to better create or select photographs for your use.

The old adage is true: the right image instantly communicates much more than 1000 words. As a wordsmith, you carefully choose the right word to express your thoughts. In the same way, you want the images you use in your presentations, blogs, websites, ezines and other materials to perfectly complement your words.
The photos need to be *great* to accompany your stories and points—not just snapshots. You want images that enthrall your audience. Pictures you take yourself can be exactly what helps express your unique point or story, if they are done well.
However, you’re not a professional photographer. You need simple techniques to take excellent photos, without lugging around a heavy, expensive camera, full-sized tripod, and other burdensome equipment. You need to know how to take a great picture that doesn’t involve endless messing with F-stops and other technical issues. Fortunately, today’s digital cameras now take care of what used to be technical challenges.
Dick Durrance, professional speaker and former National Geographic staff photographer, will show you how to harness the power of the graphic elements in your pictures—light, line, shape, color, and texture—to better tell the story you are trying to share with your audiences without having to rely on sophisticated technical skills.

Hall of Fame speaker Ian Percy once wrote, “When your life flashes before your eyes, it’s pictures not words that flash by. Our life stories are always told in pictures.”
In this webinar, you will learn how to:
• Be clear in your mind on the story you’re trying to tell in the picture. You will see how to frame, crop, and use the basic graphic elements in the picture to lead the viewer’s eye to the most important point you are trying to make with the picture.
• Select the light (sunrise, bright midday, foggy, dusk, shadows) you need to set the tone for your picture
• Use color to evoke emotion and texture to add depth to a picture
• Shift the angle or perspective to create a much more dramatic and intriguing image
• Compose pictures that contain all of the elements that are essential to your story
• Be aware of what shapes draw one’s eye into the image

More information =>

Top Ten Mistakes – Visual Aids

Love this article.

If you are up against entrenched insistence on death by PowerPoint, this could be a good place to start the conversion.  (Especially if the insistence is your own!!)

Tip: You and your visuals

Using visuals of any sort in a presentation has to be as unobtrusive as possible.

The first step here is being prepared.

If you can practice beforehand, do so.

Organise physical objects so that you can reach them when they are needed, without having to search, and without having to fumble. This may mean arranging them in the order in which they will be presented. It may mean practising the presentation so that you know automatically where to reach for something. This can apply to objects you want to display, the remote control for projecting equipment, the pens for flip charts or overhead projectors or a whiteboard, or to slides or overhead transparencies.

During these practice sessions, work out how you will move around the visual supports and equipment. Where will you place the objects you want to pick up – on a table, or another piece of furniture? Where will this, or the equipment, be so that you can move around it and communicate most easily with your audience – in front of you, beside or behind you? Always consider the least distracting way of accessing your material and the greatest ease of movement.

If you are using projection equipment, visualise its placement. Think about how you will work with the laptop or the overhead projector – standing beside, or behind? Do you want your silhouette projected on the screen as well as your visuals? Walking in front of the screen will also obscure them.

If you cannot organise the positioning of your equipment, then try to become familiar with it before the presentation and then visualise how you will use it best.

How to include pictures in presentations

I’ve just discovered this article at Microsoft Office. What a treasure trove they have there.

This one, by Robert Lane and Andre Vlcek is called Speaking Visually: Eight Roles Pictures Play in Presentation.

Including pictures in presentations is a simple and powerful way of expanding your expressive potential as a speaker. Pictures communicate at levels beyond the descriptive possibilities of words and bathe the brain in much desired visual stimulation. At the same time, not all pictures are created equally. Choosing the right images, and using them in the right ways, can greatly impact your effectiveness.

… and there are some powerful examples.  This one under the heading “Getting Attention”.

Eight Roles Pictures Play in Presentation

Let Me Illustrate My Point:Illuminating Your Presentations with Simple Drawings

Even if you’re severely artistically challenged, you can add content and excitement to your presentations by creating wonderful, memorable cartoons in real time. Anyone can do it and Mike will show you how.

Why create your own cartoons instead of using clip art? Because you can make them appear as your audience watches. You can customize them specifically to your audience’s industry or application and you can draw them in response to audience input and feedback. You will stand out as not showing overused “bean” people or other clip art some audiences consider hokey. The result: an audience that is engaged, informed and entertained.

Mike will walk you through some simple images and have you draw along with him real-time. He’ll show you easy-to-draw people (not stick figures) and how to adjust their facial expressions to match the emotion you want to convey. You’ll draw as he demonstrates so you walk away with new tools to integrate your drawings into keynotes, trainings, facilitations, and even webinars.

In this webinar you’ll learn how to:

  • visually represent concepts such as leadership, cutomer-centric, diversity, and empowerment
  • integrate industry jargon, keywords, and cliches to make your points visually
  • use visual humor to surprise and delight your audiences
  • apply these cartoons to sales, marketing, production, HR, customer service, finance
  • enhance your audience’s problem-solving skills by helping them change perspective — literally!
  • draw simple cartoons to help people/groups communicate better with each other
  • utilize these techniques to break down rigid thinking and bad assumptions
  • access a $100 tool for you to draw on your PowerPoint slides

Special note: To view this webinar, you’ll need to be in front of an Internet-connected computer. You don’t need anything else but a pad and pencil to draw along with Mike.

More information?  Click here

Give your audience something to flip over

Give Participants Something to Flip Over

Let me start off by saying that I do NOT like toys or other distractions in training. I’m NOT one to provide little widgets to keep participants’ hands occupied or provide cutesy pens or such trinkets. I’ve always viewed them as distractions that shouldn’t be necessary if your training is engaging and relevant. I recently “discovered” a technique that simultaneously:

  • Provides motivational, upbeat phrases for participants
  • Reinforces key concepts
  • Ensures that everyone is paying attention and following along
  • Allows the instructor to tell whether each participant grasps the concept