Every Picture Tells a Story …
Stories for children …
All books for very young children have pictures – drawings, paintings & photos. They also have words, which the adults read to the children. The pictures help to tell the story and the children start to learn the spoken language by listening to the adults as they tell the story. Later on the children learn the written language and from then on they can read the words in any book. So language learning for young humans starts with pictures and eventually progresses to spoken words and later to written words.
Instructions & education for adults
Even as adults, pictures can tell stories; when assembling or setting up equipment, furniture or electronic items, etc there are usually some instructions to follow, and very often these include diagrams to assist in the process; following instructions without diagrams can be frustrating. While the written instructions may need to be in several languages to suit users from different countries, diagrams can be universally understood across all languages, and the process can be quicker.
Core value of my book
A common expression is ‘Pictures can be worth a thousand words’, which of course is an exaggeration, but the core principle is correct; pictures are indeed very effective communication devices. However, some pictures are better than others at communicating ideas. My book ‘Is Your Picture Worth a Thousand Words?’ explains how presenting information in tables, graphs, charts, diagrams and illustrations can be improved by simple adjustment of the layout and placing of the information.
Some techniques in my book
Tables Placing the most important information in the first column and/or the first row of a table, which is where the reader first looks, and placing the least important information in the last column and/or last row of a table, which is where the reader looks last, conveys the information in the best order for easy and quickest understanding. Presentation of tabular information in this order from most important to least important, of course, has to be matched with the order in legends and text discussion for optimal effect. For example, in a scientific paper, the same order needs to be used in the Methods, Results, Discussion, Visual/graphical aids, Conclusions and Summary sections.
Graphs & charts Similarly, in pie charts, starting at the 12 o’clock position and rotating in an anti-clockwise direction, the information sectors should be placed in descending order of importance/quantity. In most other graphical presentations, information of greatest importance should be placed in the easiest to read position, typically close to the axes where reading of the values on the axes is easiest; or perhaps in the foreground if a 3-D effect is used. Use of colours in diagrams adds extra dimensions and greatly assists comprehension.
Users The book not only will assist in technical documents, but will have similar benefits with commercial reports, marketing information and even social club information and student assignments.
Inefficient processes Without ordering of information to suit the reader, pictures can sometimes add very little to a document. For example, suppose that the most important piece of information is ‘buried’ in the 4th column and 3rd row of a table, or in the 6th sector in a pie chart, or mixed in the middle of a jungle of other information in other graph types. When people are reading text discussion and then attempting to find confirmation of it in any of the diagrams, they will lose time and effort and perhaps lose some of the benefits of the information through frustration. Then if they read about the second most important information in the discussion and then have to find where it is ‘buried’, the inefficient process is repeated … and repeated ….