Content, Color, and Visual Clues

By: Marilyn L. Davis


Using Color and Images to Convey the Intent

“Visual art and writing don’t exist on an aesthetic hierarchy that positions one above the other, because each is capable of things the other can’t do at all. Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.”   William S. Burroughs

Each person writing an article today has more opportunities to convey their point of view, share their knowledge or offer helpful tips and hints on a broad range of topics.

Online searches, whether it’s Google, Bing or Yahoo, opened up the world to instant access to information. Not only are we able to write articles on subjects that interest us, but we can validate our perspective with scholarly research.

Providing additional evidence that supports our position or sometimes disagrees with our point of view is research that many writers enjoy. 

Unfortunately, many writers fail to take this same deliberate approach to finding images and photos that enhance and inform. Click To Tweet

People Relate to the Image

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” irritates many writers who know that their descriptors are relevant, exciting, and informative. Regardless of content information, we are also able to enhance our reader’s awareness with efficient use of corresponding images and color choices.

Rather than be irritated, a writer today needs to understand that adding a bonus image reinforces the words, reducing that complex narrative into a single still image. Click To Tweet



If we look at the definition of a circle: a round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).  Well, that describes it using the correct words, but how much easier on the writer and the reader is this image of a circle?

When we use white space, relevant pictures, and other visuals, it improves our reader’s experience. With these additions, we create meaningful articles on several levels.

What Does that Color Mean?

Colors influence a reader’s perception of an article as well. There are cultural, socioeconomic, gender, and age differences that will affect how readers view the choice of color and image. Therefore, it is necessary to know the reading audience when selecting images or colors. Understanding reader influences will help narrow choices so a writer can better determine which image, color or photo to include.

People think using pictures.  We are drawn to the picture. John Berger, a media theorist, writes in his book Ways of Seeing  “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”  Most of us could identify a cat by the picture long before we understood that the black squiggly lines spelled C-A-T.

Dr. Lynell Burmark, Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and writer of several books and papers on visual literacy, said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”

So, I could emphasize this article with a picture of a cat or move on to the next point. Frankly, a photo of a cat, regardless of how appealing, might confuse my readers if it was the initial image, and they might not finish the article based on their perception of my picture.

I Like Red – You Like Green 

marilyn l davis two drops of ink color contentHow does color influence the readers’ experience? People have personal preferences for colors in their living environment, clothing and even the color of the car they drive. When we use color in our media inserts, we are sending a subtle message with our choice of color, sometimes as much as the written content.  Modern color psychology uses six principles:

  1. Color can carry specific meaning
  2. Meaning is based on learned or biologically innate
  3. The perception is up to the person perceiving it
  4. The visual process forces color motivated behavior
  5. Color usually exerts its influence automatically
  6. Color meaning and effect has to do with context as well

Studies in the United States have shown that certain colors convey a particular intent, action or emotion and that colors have both a positive and negative connotation.

Combining Images and Colors to Enhance Reading 

Francis Davis, an adult educator and media education specialist, captured it well when he said, “…in our culture pictures have become tools used to elicit specific and planned emotional reactions in the people who see them.”

If I were writing an article about the universal appeal of soccer, I could use a picture of a black and white soccer ball, and leave it up to the reader’s imagination, however, it is essentially a boring image.

I can give them another black and white soccer ball; this time with dirt, cleats, and a human image. This visual lets them know a little more about the element, but it still does not capture certain aspects of soccer that are perhaps the greatest benefit of the last ball in the illustration.


soccer balls

The third choice is a soccer ball representing how many countries play soccer, reflective of the universal appeal of the game, making it more globally recognized. This image, although lacking a human element, still manages to convey the universal human teamwork and competition with the inclusion of countries’ flags.

Adding Color and Visuals Helps Your Writing Flow

Visuals are not only excellent communicators, but also quickly affect readers psychologically and physiologically.  A memorable article combines excellent writing, images, and other visuals that effectively illustrate the words. A conscientious writer takes the time to find visuals that reinforce their content. It is this correct combination of the two that ensure that readers stay engaged.

Images: Giving Credit

None of us like seeing our articles used and plagiarized by others; the same holds true for photographers and graphic artists. Being mindful of when you can use images legally and listing the sources shows the same courtesy to those individuals that we expect for ourselves.




Yes and Circles:

Soccer Balls:  microsoftclipart


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  1. I enjoyed this post very much. I am new to blogging and I take a lot of photo”s. I have taken great colorful pictures of myself in retail branded clothing on my website blog, however, I am unsure if this is illegal by not stating where the clothes and accessories are from? Could anyone help me with this please

    • I enjoyed this post very much. I am new to blogging and I take a lot of photo”s. I have taken great colorful pictures of myself in retail branded clothing on my website blog, however, I am unsure if this is illegal by not stating where the clothes and accessories are from? Could anyone help me with this please

      • Hi, Sunanda. Thank you for commenting. I don’t have an answer, but I might contact the clothing brand’s PR office and ask.

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