Meaningful images

I’m currently reading ‘The back of the napkin’ by Dan Roam, about solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. Roam says that visual thinking is all about making “…the complex understandable by making it visible – not by making it simple.”

This made me wonder what is going on in our brains when we look at images/diagrams that they can provide us with those ‘a-ha!’ moments.

In thinking about this I came across a TED Talk by information designer Tom Wujec:

In the talk he explains how a good visual will engage three parts of our brains:

  • The ventral stream – engaged when our eyes are invited to dart around different parts of an image.
  • The dorsal stream – engaged when the image encourages interactivity.
  • The limbic stream – engaged by colour and motion in an image.

He concludes that there are three key elements which are needed to make an image meaningful. The first is that the ideas need to be clearly visualised, the second that it needs to be somehow interactive and the third that to make it memorable there needs to be visual ‘persistence’.

For me, thinking about these fundamentals can really help if you have a complex idea you would like to visualise. If you can engage people’s brains well that must surely be half the battle!

Have you tried using images to explain a complex idea? Do you think knowing these brain fundamentals would help?



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