Why Graphics Matter – Part 2

Last month we introduced you to the importance of graphics in communications.

To recap or catch up check it out here here:
Why Graphics Matter (Part 1 of 2)

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Now that we have shown you how graphics can be used to increase engagement, reinforce ideas and improve understanding, lets dive deeper into the subject using a simple graphic concept we use in everyday life – the emoji. With this concept we will show you how graphics can be used to clarify tone & interpretation, as well as reduce cognitive load.

Graphics Clarify Tone and Interpretation

Let’s explore the emoji: Love them or hate them they are here to stay.
We text, we text a LOT. Think about your text life –  how many times have you sent a character-only text that was misinterpreted? Or even worse, you misinterpreted a text from your significant other and started an argument for no reason?

Studies show that the use of an emoji (graphic) can actually help build better relationships.

“In a survey of 2,000 adults aged 18-65 led by [Linguistics Professor Vyv] Evans, 72% of 18 to 25-year-olds said they found it easier to put their feelings across in emoji icons than in text, while 51% in the same group said they found emojis made them better communicators”.1

Let’s look at an example. Read the following two text messages:

In message number one there is no indication of the tone of the message. Are they actually excited or are they being sarcastic? Do they mean what they are saying? Oh my god are they thinking about breaking up with me!? The meaning of these two simple words can be interpreted many ways – something that would be easy to interpret in a verbal conversation, based on tone of voice, facial expression, etc.

Now let’s look at message number 2. By adding a simple graphic, we have clarified the meaning and tone of the message. Suddenly there is very little confusion about the tone, clearly (unless they are being intentional) the sender is truly excited and genuinely can’t wait – the idea of it makes them happy!

This is a very simple example of how graphics can clarify a tone and drive your audience to interpret your message the way it was intended. This same concept can be expanded and utilized in employee communications, advertising, the works. Next time you are communicating to your team give it a try, add some intentional* graphics, and you might just be able to avoid that grumpy glare from Bob and Sue, who think your email about this week’s deadline is directly calling them out for not pulling their weight (it wasn’t).

*I say intentional because simply dropping any old image into a communication isn’t the answer, make sure it is well designed and thought out to clarify the messaging you are trying to get across.

Graphics can reduce cognitive load

In the words of Harvard Business Review (and sticking with the emoji analogy): “Why send an email survey asking for written feedback when all you need to do is provide a choice between a smiley face and a frown? Images are an integral part of the Millennial language, even in the workplace… Millennials are thinking and communicating in images, so marketers need to optimize emails for images and allow for quick feedback through emoji.”2

At the IMPI HR conference in Miami this past February, we heard a lot about employee engagement and employee surveys. One of the recurring themes was about keeping it simple so that people participated. Think about the above quote, we understand a smile is satisfied, and a frown is dissatisfied – do we really need a 1-20 scale or could replace it with a simple visual scale increase participation by reducing myopic focus? You decide which is easier and faster to understand:

Ill keep this section short and leave it at that – Cognitive Load in action!

So there we have it, graphics are important! Utilize them, and you may just make your life a little easier.

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  1. Butler, Ben. “Emojis ‘can help build successful relationships’.” The Mirror, 16 Jul, 2015, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/emojis-can-help-build-successful-6084302. Accessed: 24 May, 2017.
  2. Naragon, Kristen. “Email Is the Best Way to Reach Millennials.” Harvard Business Review, 12 Nov, 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/11/email-is-the-best-way-to-reach-millennials. Accessed: 24 May, 2017