By: Marilyn L. Davis
“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
Use Images to Engage the Reader
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.
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 that an image captured the reader, a writer today needs to understand that adding a bonus image reinforces the words and can often reduce that complex narrative into a single image. Click To Tweet
From Complex to a Simple, Colorful Image
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 for 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 writers 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 options so a writer can better determine which image, color or photo to include.
I Like Red – You Like Green
How 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. These colors influence our readers as much as the words. Modern color psychology uses six principles:
- Color can carry specific meaning
- Meaning is based on learned or biologically innate
- The perception is up to the person perceiving it
- The visual process forces color motivated behavior
- Color usually exerts its influence automatically
- 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.
We First Learned the Picture
People think using pictures. We are drawn to the image. 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. 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. Unfortunately, when readers are confused, they often leave. So we have to be mindful of what images we select.
Images and Colors 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. It’s an appropriate image. I’d then leave it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the intent. However, It is essentially a dull image.
I can give them another black and white soccer ball. Maybe one with dirt, cleats, and a human image. This visual shows the reader a little more about the element, but it still does not capture certain aspects of soccer that are perhaps the most significant benefit of the last ball in the illustration.
A third choice is a soccer ball representing how many countries play soccer.
This image reflects the universal appeal of the game, making it more globally recognized.
While this images lacks a human element, it still manages to convey the global human teamwork and competition with the inclusion of flags from many countries.
Colors Reinforce your Content
Visuals are not only excellent communicators, but also quickly affect readers psychologically and physiologically.
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.
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