One of the main ideas behind the book Going Visual is that images are a powerful and natural way for humans to communicate. The key word here is natural. In other words, we are hardwired for understanding images and using images to communicate. For example, I grew up in a seaside home and I still recall using a stick to draw large pictures in the sand with neighborhood friends. We must have been no older than four or five at the time. There seems to be something inside of us that yearns to draw or otherwise show visually the ideas in our head through sculpture, paintings, photography, whatever. They say "a picture is worth a 1000 words." There's a reason.
Gerard and Goldstein on using images:
"...images have a unique power not just to convey information, but also to build unity and consensus around that information to promote action and decision making.... Because images are complete and detailed and deliver an information experience that has greater impact than words, a common base of visual information proves to be the most efficient form of shared experience from which to make decisions."
Images are powerful, efficient, and direct. Why, then, have we not used images more in business processes? For example, why do most PowerPoint slides contain far more words than images? One reason, historically, is that business people have been limited by technology. According to the authors, visual communication and technology go hand in hand. Whether we are talking about my stick at the beach, caveman paintings, or film photography. But here in 2005, most people do have the tools available. For example, we have digital cameras and editing software for easily placing photos in slides.
The authors show that the evolution of visual communication technology has three main elements: (1) Skill level — technology has gotten easier, (2) Time requirements — creating/using images takes less time, and (3) Audience reach — technology allows us now to communicate with more people visually.
To show the evolution visually, the authors display five charts in Going Visual. To explain their ideas concerning this evolution in my own presentation, I made my own slides with a very similar design with some modifications. I used these slides in a recent presentation on visual communication and they were most effective in helping the audience see just how far we have come and what a different world we now live in. Below are the thumbs of the slides.