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A Diagram a Day Keeps Distracted Readers Away

There is an awful lot of science behind the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words", but don't just take my word for it; check out this stunning blog of statistics on just how much more effective visuals are for disseminating information

· Agile Zone

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Words are processed by short term memory, where only around seven pieces of information can be retained at a given time. That’s not very promising. Images, on the other hand, go to long-term memory where they are indelibly etched–that’s why a picture is worth a thousand words.

Whether you are presenting data in a slide deck to executives or a biology lesson to fifth graders, you may want to give this cliche some consideration. Visuals can make the difference in whether or not your message makes a lasting statement. Here are a few of the reasons as to why you may want to hop on the visualization train:

1. Visuals Stand Out From the Crowd.

We are inundated with information every second of every day, and we can’t take it all in. Visuals up your chances of making the cut.

Eye tracking studies show that people pay attention to and spend more time looking at information-carrying images than reading text on a page. Content paired with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content without images. It’s a simple solution for making sure your message breaks through the noise—give your audience something engaging to look at.

2. Visuals Speak Our Language.

We are visually wired. As a result, images can help break down the complex.

Image title

Take this example—people following directions that include both text and illustrations do 323 percent better than those with just text. Relationships between data can be better demonstrated in a visual format—it’s much easier to show increase in profits over time with a line graph than it is with a load of numbers and letters. Visuals offer a common language and can help your audience comprehend information quickly. In an office setting, employees are 17 percent more productive and have to use 20 percent fewer mental resources when data is displayed visually.

3. Visuals Stick With Us.

We remember images. Visual cues can help us to remember and retrieve information because, in stark contrast to the abstract nature of words, images are concrete.

In a study, students were asked to remember groups of three words. Those who tried to remember by repeating the words didn’t do well, but those who made visual associations with the words did significantly better. Graphics go a long way to ensure your information is memorable.

Diagramming: A Ticket to Visualization

The importance of incorporating visuals in order for your message to break through the noise, be understood and be remembered is clear. But it’s not always clear how to actually go about representing certain types of information visually. Cue the visual world of diagramming.  

Diagrams can help you visually organize and display nearly any type of information, segmenting it into manageable, memorable chunks. It doesn’t take much to get started. Let’s look at just three examples of diagrams you can easily start using to embrace the power that is visualization.

Concept Maps

Concept maps are excellent for visually representing the relationships between concepts or ideas. They are ideal for presenting new information, as they integrate new and old knowledge to give you a better idea of the big picture. This integration promotes meaningful learning which increases knowledge retention.

Use this comprehensive guide to become a concept mapping guru and learn how to create your own.

Concept Map

Process Maps

A process map helps you visually describe a workflow by using a variety of symbols to map out the series of events that lead to an end result. You can use a process map to help all members of your organization understand how a process is completed and who is involved in that process.

Images explain a process much more clearly than a narrative can. By building a process map, you can identify areas where you can improve efficiency. You can then present visual proof of existing problems such as bottlenecks, repetition and delays, so that everyone can then collaborate on the necessary changes.

Discover more about process maps and how to make them.

process map

Venn Diagram

A Venn diagram illustrates the logical relationships between different items, allowing you to organize and compare them. These diagrams are often used in reports or presentations because of their ability to visualize data in clear, powerful ways. For example, when presenting two different choices, this diagram can clearly convey the similarities and differences more efficiently and concisely than words can.

To learn more, check out this handy a Venn diagram guide.

Image title

And that’s just scratching the surface of the many diagram types you can utilize to illustrate your message. After all, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a diagram can be worth a thousand and one.

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Published at DZone with permission of Brian Pugh, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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