5 Visual Communication Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

By June 20, 2019 January 6th, 2020 Data Visualization, Visual Communication
Visual communication illustration design with eye and icons

Quality visual communication is about so much more than combining text with visuals. It’s an evolving combination of art and science, and it takes a discerning eye to execute it successfully.

Since so many components go into the creation of great visual content (research, copywriting, graphic design, data science, marketing, and more), there are unfortunately quite a few ways in which it can go awry. Check out these 5 examples of visual communication mistakes that are common, but avoidable.

1. Using Visuals as a Supplement to Text

It’s common to see visual content that has several paragraphs’ worth of text combined with some imagery. But this relies too much on the text — and not enough on the visuals — to make meaning.

This mistake is why writing for visual communication is a true challenge. Although content is often the first phase of a visual communication project, it shouldn’t happen in isolation. The length and organization of content must be chosen with visuals and formatting in mind.

Visuals need to drive the end piece. If you’re creating an infographic and you can’t understand the topic just by looking at the visuals, your infographic is too dependent on the copy to tell the story — in which case, it isn’t much of an infographic at all.

2. Missing Opportunities to Visualize Data

Whether your content is rich with statistics or relies more on qualitative information, your visual content should never be a reading assignment. Successful visual communication takes advantage of each and every opportunity to visualize data. Use charts and graphs where you can, with illustrations and icons where no chart or graph will work. Avoid text-only information except in your intro and conclusion — and don’t hide key stats in those sections!

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3. Adding Visuals Without Purpose

Every visual cue, from the banner style you use to emphasize text to the recurring character illustration in your narrative, should serve a distinct purpose and add to your story. Adding extraneous elements could take your viewers down a confusing path.

Say your topic is grocery shopping habits, but you saw a really cool circuit-board pattern on a TV ad and want your designer to incorporate that. Or perhaps you have some white space and want to add a cash-register illustration to fill the void. Resist the temptation! Make sure that any visual element on your design is helping to tell the story, rather distracting viewers from the core message.

4. Picking the Wrong Chart or Graph for Your Data

Every type of chart and graph has an explicit purpose. For example, visualizing percentages of a whole (e.g. “25% of all consumers”) is generally best visualized with a circle graph. Showing trends over time is a perfect use for a line graph (though it’s not the only way to show that information).

Correct Data Visualization

The more you know about what types of charts and graphs serve what purposes, the more intuitively clear your data will be to viewers.

5. Letting Format Dictate Your Goals

Quality visual communication begins by defining goals, not deliverables. Rather than being determined to create an infographic or a motion graphic, you must first analyze your audience and determine what results you want to see.

You can’t tell every story most effectively with an infographic — nor should you try. The same goes for motion and interactive mediums. Before getting too excited about how you’re going to tell your story, make sure you take the time to analyze why and for whom you’re telling that story.

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we learn! But avoid these 5 common errors, and you’ll be well on your way to creating quality visual communication.

What was a content marketing mistake you made, and how did you put what you learned into action next time? Tell us in the comments!

Lucy Todd

Author Lucy Todd

Lucy Todd is the Chief Process Officer at Killer Visual Strategies. She is a Seattle native and Western Washington University graduate. Her degree in Creative Writing and her customer service background both inform her work daily. A Killer employee since 2011 and executive since 2014, Lucy has researched for, written, and/or project-managed over 4,000 projects for the company, affording her key insight into our processes and projects. This experience is invaluable in allowing her to lead and empower Killer’s content and project management teams to success. Lucy enjoys managing the day-to-day at the office, offering a unique perspective when a team or colleague feels stuck, and learning from her peers and clients each day.

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