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The Importance of Visuals in Storytelling

Ben Gau headshot

by Benjamin Gau

Vice President

We are visual creatures. Much of our communication is non-verbal: a smile here, a nod there, a gesture to a colleague across the room, etc. What we see (vs. what we hear or read) has a large impact on how we learn and process information. As such, a simple image can unleash a multitude of connections, thoughts, and emotions in just a few seconds.

In any story, visuals are vital. Whether they be graphs and charts you use to paint a picture for your audience or actual pictures and images you show, visuals help bring the story to life and create connections that mere data cannot. Visuals help make the complex seem simpler and easier to digest. They help convey and embed your story among your stakeholders. Visuals drive your narrative.

While the data behind any research remains paramount, without visuals in your storytelling, that data becomes less impactful and less likely to be absorbed and retained. This requires more than just tossing an image on a couple of slides. When we put together deliverables at Radius we follow 7 guidelines, and we wanted to share these with you to hopefully support your storytelling efforts:


1. Stay on Topic

Make sure your visuals are applicable to the topic at hand. If you’re reporting on kids’ vitamins, for example, ensure the visuals you choose are of children. While it may seem obvious, many opt for the generic image vs. spending the time to find one that fits.


2. Keep Things Simple

You want your visuals to be easily absorbed. Stay away from images that are too busy, complex, or loud. If needed, crop the image to focus on what helps tell your story (or helps remove noise).


3. Quality Is Key

Ensure the images you choose aren’t blurry, pixilated, distorted, etc. Seek out higher quality images. And please don’t use clip art — everyone in the room will cringe if you do.


Visuals help make the complex seem simpler and easier to digest. They help convey and embed your story among your stakeholders. Visuals drive your narrative.”


4. Data Is Still King

Visuals should supplement your story and help weave your narrative. A pretty report is nice, but it can’t cover up poor analysis and bad data. Don’t neglect the data for a flashy report.


5. White Space Is Your Friend

While it may be tempting to fill an entire slide with images, text and data, embrace the white space. This may mean opting for a smaller visual or no visual at all. Leaning into the white space on a slide will help your audience better process the key components of your story.


6. Maintain Consistency

The look and feel of your visuals should remain consistent throughout your report. Keep the same type of images or scheme as you choose visuals.


7. Too Much of a Good Thing

While visuals help tell your story, use them with purpose. Not every slide needs a picture on it just for the sake of it. Ensure there is a reason behind your visualizations.


At the end of the day, visuals are a critical component of any story. Be sure you’re taking the time to weave them into your narrative the right way to maximize retention and elevate your insights.

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