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Communication - Is it the age for pictures or text?

Some fundamentals of effective communication for Gen Z

Communication - Is it the age for pictures or text?

Friday January 13, 2017,

5 min Read

Instagram or Facebook? YouTube or the Wall Street Journal? The book or the Movie?Today's generation will pick the more visual or audio - visual medium all the time. Have we lost the ability to read and absorb anything longer than 144 characters or do we simply not have the time anymore?

I love reading. I love the feeling of being deeply immersed in a book with the words sinking into my sub-conscience conjuring up pictures of worlds I have never seen taking me into a foreign land... and I hate pictures... Growing up, the odd picture in an Enid Blyton book, seldom matched the image I had in my head and often distracted me from the story. So, I find it hard to reconcile myself with the overwhelming recommendation to replace text with pictures for more high-impact communication.

But the sad fact is that I am a minority. Most people prefer pictures, and while I might enjoy the experience of reading a book, even I find I remember things better when I am shown a well labelled diagram/ picture/ flow chart of whatever I am trying to learn.

I think it finally depends on the purpose of the communication and the audience it is for. When you sit down to write a novel or a dissertation, spend time on crafting a well written piece. Use every element of the language of your choice to bring alive your subject. Ignore it when spell check tells you to use a simpler word, let function follow form. Grab your audience's attention with the written word and mesmerize your audience for hours at a time. They will always prefer the book to the movie.

But when you are preparing a communication for quick consumption and maximum impact - use more pictures than text, better still use a video with a combination of moving pictures and text... explaining things as you go along... like this video, which explains how the internet works in 13 minutes flat.

So here are a few tips on how to make your communications more effective:

Tip No 1: Use pictures to help tell your story:

Here's an example: The best font to use when creating a PowerPoint is 18 for body text, 30 for headings and 40 for titles, however, you be aware that the font size itself may not be a good indicator of readability as different fonts may look smaller or bigger in size depending on what the font actually is. It is also recommended that you use fonts which are sans serif rather than serif fonts. Some examples of sans serif fonts are Arial and Calibiri whereas examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman and Garamond. When writing large amounts of text remember to use both upper and lower case letters and using all blocks in printed material may actually be harder to read. Above all, don't sacrifice readability for style.

Here's a picture which says the same thing:


Now granted, neither one can exist on it's own. However, both together create a greater impact and ensure that the recall value is greater.

Steve Jobs was ruthless with this. Not only did he hate text, he banned bullet points in all his presentations... Here are some of his most famous slides.



But this is not very easy to do, and therein lies the problem. Steve Jobs reportedly spent hours designing and practicing his presentations until they were flawless, plus he had an army of graphic designers to help him create visualizations of his concepts. We have to rely largely on what we can get from the internet.

But with a little thought and creativity you can achieve great results. I'll do another article on how to create better visuals for your presentations very soon.

Tip No. 2: Tweet it

If your messages can't be done in 144 characters or less. They're probably too long to hold peoples attention.They're probably too long to hold peoples' attention. (there, that was only 92 characters). Edit your sentences. Make them lean, remove unnecessary words. Use simple words and sentences. Keep the fog index low.

Tip No 3: The power of 3

Limit your messaging to 3 most important points. Studies have shown that the human mind remembers best what it hears about in 3's. It's the magic number that you see in nursery rhymes and fairy tales (3 blind mice, Goldilocks and the 3 bears, The 3 Billy Goats Gruff).Categorize any additional points you may have into 3 sub points of these main points. And for longer communications, you can expand these sub points into 3 further items and maybe dedicate one slide or one paragraph to each topic. You'll be amazed by the amount of information you can pack into a communication if you follow this simple rule.


So when you work on communications use these tips. Make the effort to put in pictures... Keep the messages short and crisp and stick to the power of 3. And if you need any help with editing write to me @ [email protected]