We all know the dangers of bad communication, which can sap time, energy and resources—even cause PR disasters that damage your credibility and bottom line.
But poor design is a subtle plague, much more widespread in organizations today than we sometimes notice. When key data is overlooked in a dull report or when an important message is lost in a cluttered presentation, problems persist and opportunities are missed.
Picture the last PowerPoint deck you or someone on your team sent to a key customer. Was it effective? Did it strengthen your relationship, or was it just another task to check off on a to-do list? In the worst cases, the professional communication that is sent is downright embarrassing and reflects poorly on your brand.
So, when it comes to getting your message across, how do you ensure you’re at least doing most of it well? It starts with defining good design in your business context by creating a shared visual language as an extension of your current brand guidelines, and instilling its importance at all levels of your organization. Essentially, a visual language is a shared set of best practices for communicating information. Once established, you must give everyone a way to stay within the guard rails, so that the right content creation tools form a critical support structure.
Like any type of communication, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. Well-designed visual communication isn’t just about being pretty. Good design stimulates viewers’ brains, enhancing the efficacy and impact of information in a cohesive visual experience by increasing:
Appeal: Elements such as shape and color stimulate the visual cortex. This is a pre-wired response that attracts viewers to visual cues. A study by neuroscientists at MIT found that visual information is processed in as few as 13 milliseconds.
Comprehension: As visual creatures, we benefit from seeing the big picture. Visualizing relationships, values or sequences can increase and expedite comprehension exponentially.
Retention: Good information design helps readers recall information later. A University of Saskatchewan study found that including illustration made chart data more memorable.
The strategic application of design boosts the impact of everything from client reports to blog posts, increasing the value of the content you create. Recent research by Design Management Institute shows that design-driven companies such as Apple and Coca-Cola have outperformed the S&P 500 by 228% over the past 10 years.
This article originally appeared in Communication World Magazine.