Module 19 – Using Visuals
Why Use Visuals?
-Appropriate, attractive visuals create immediate stories: they are faster and easier to understand and
remember. Visuals condense and clarify data; visuals are a easy way to communicate your points.
- Formal visuals are divided into tables and figures.
=> Tables are numbers or words arranged in rows and columns; figures are everything else.
- In a document, formal visuals have both numbers and titles
=> The title puts the story in context, indicating what your audience should look for in the
visual, and why it is important.
=> Informal or spot visuals are inserted directly into the text; they do not have numbers or
- In your rough draft, use visuals
• To see that ideas are presented completely. Atable, for example, can show you whether
you've included all the items in a comparison.
• To find relationships. For example, charting sales on a map may show that the sales
representatives who made their quotas all have territories on the west coast or in the
Atlantic provinces. Even if you don't use the visual in your final document, creating the map may
lead you to questions you wouldn't otherwise ask.
- In the final presentation or document, use visuals
• To make points vivid. Readers skim memos and reports; a visual catches the eye. The brain
processes visuals immediately. Understanding words—written or oral—takes more time.
• To emphasize material that might be skipped if it were buried in a paragraph.
• To present material more compactly and with less repetition than words alone can.
- The number and type of visuals you need depend on your purposes, your information, and the
audience. You'll use more visuals when you want to show relationships, to persuade when the
information is complex or contains extensive numerical data, and when the audience values visuals.
P What are your purposes in communicating with visuals? Why are you using illustrations?
Your purposes come from you, your organization, and the information you intend to convey.
A Who is your audience? Who will read your message? What do they need to know? How will
they use your visuals? Will they use them to follow instructions? to see the future if they act a
certain way now? What graphics/ illustrations would most appeal to your audience? Why? What
visuals would maximize your audience's understanding? Why?
I What information must your visual include? What visual will cause your readers to think or do
as you want them to? What images could tell your story dramatically and immediately? What
numerical or quantitative data are you representing? What visuals would best convey that
B What reasons or reader benefits support your position? What visuals would emphasize those
O What audience objections do you anticipate? How can you use visuals to de-emphasize or
overcome audience objections?
C What context will affect reader response? Consider your relationship to your readers,
organizational culture, the economy, and the time of year. When choosing your illustrations,
consider also your audience demographic, cultural values, and norms. WhatAre Stories and How Do I Find Them?
-Astory interprets something that is happening or will happen. Look for relationships, patterns, and
- Stories are made up of symbols—words, images, colours, and icons—that enable us to create and
-An organization's brand tells the story of its purposes and values.
- Every visual should tell a story that is meaningful to your audience. Use the title of the visual to
give your story context and emphasis.
- Stories that tell us what we already know are rarely interesting. Instead, good stories do at least one
of several things:
• Support a hunch you have
• Surprise or challenge so-called common knowledge
• Show trends or changes you didn't know existed
• Have commercial, cultural, or social significance
• Provide information needed for action
• Have personal relevance to you and the audience
- You can find stories in three ways:
1. Focus on a topic (starting salaries, alternative music choices, Twitter demographics).
2. Simplify the data on that topic and convert the numbers to simple, easy-to-understand units.
3. Look for relationships and changes. For example, compare two or more groups: Do men and
women have the same attitudes? Look for changes over time. Look for items that can be seen as part
of the same group; for example, to find stories about Internet ads, you might group ads in the same
product category—ads for cars, for food, for beverages.
- When you think you have a story, test it against all the data to be sure it's accurate.
- Some stories are simple straight lines
- But other stories are more complex, with exceptions or outlying cases. Such stories will need more
vivid illustration to do them justice.And sometimes the best story arises from the juxtaposition of
two or more stories. For example, comparison of Canadians' feelings about the influence of social
networking sites on their reputations with the attitudes of teachers.
- Whatever the story, your audience should be able to see what the visual says:
Does the chart support the title, and does the title reinforce the chart? So if I say in my title
"sales have increased significantly," I want to see a trend moving up at a sharp angle. If not, if
the trend parallels the baseline, it's an instant clue that the chart needs more thinking.
- For optimum audience impact, use the "tell, show, tell" rule:
• First, tell your readers or listeners what they are about to see
• Next, show your audience what you promised to show them
• Finally, tell them the significance of the visual
-And, of course, the visual must depict exactly what you said it would.
- Choose the story you want to tell based on your PAIBOC analysis.
Does It Matter What Kind Of Visual I Use?
- Yes! The visual must match the kind of story.
- Visuals are not interchangeable. Use visuals that best present the data.
- Whenever possible, create your own, original visuals. - Use software to make charts, graphs, tables, and figures; use a digital camera to capture stories.
- Use maps, diagrams, and graphics to convey complex information
- Use images and artwork to reinforce themes
- Use tables when the reader needs to be able to identify exact values
- Use a chart or graph when you want the reader to focus on relationships.
o To compare a part to the whole, use a pie graph
o To compare one item to another item, or items over time, use a bar graph or a line graph
- Use tables only when you want the audience to focus on specific numbers.
• Round off to simplify the data (e.g., 35 percent rather than 35.27 percent). Provide column and row
totals or averages when they're relevant.
• Put the items you want readers to compare in columns rather than in rows to facilitate mental
subtraction and division.
• When you have many rows, screen alternate entries or double-space after every five entries to help
readers line up items accurately.
- Pie graphs force the audience to measure area. Research shows that people can judge position or
length (which a bar graph uses) much more accurately than they can judge area.
- The data in any pie graph can be put in a bar graph. Therefore, use a pie graph only when you are
comparing one segment to the whole.
- When you are comparing one segment to another, use a bar graph, a line graph, or a map—even
though the data may be expressed in percentages.
• Start at 12 o'clock with the largest percentage or the percentage you want to focus on. Go clockwise
to each smaller percentage or to each percentage in some other logical order.
• Make the graph chart a perfect circle. Perspective circles distort the data.
• Limit the number of segments to five or seven. If your data have more divisions, combine the
smallest or the least important into a single "miscellaneous" or "other" category.