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This is an exclusive blog post direct from our co-founder and CEO, Amy Balliett. She discusses how visual communication is at the heart of the latest Apple software update for mobile devices, giving personal examples that help illustrate how these features can be used.


This past weekend, my mom finally updated her phone to iOS 10. She was one of the last holdouts I knew, and I feel confident now that almost everyone with an iPhone is using at least iOS 10. Which means I can finally write this post.

While there have been many complaints about the new operating system, I’ve been struck by the use of visual communication throughout iOS 10’s design. Every minute, we’re inundated with information. Now that we carry small computers in our pockets all the time, content is always at our fingertips and the constant push notifications can quickly feel overwhelming. In response to this, the demand for visual communication has grown at a rapid pace. That’s because visual content (when properly executed) delivers information far faster than text — it cuts through the noise. Despite all of its drawbacks, Apple’s newest operating system further emphasizes this unique ability, proving that the demand for visual content isn’t dying down anytime soon.

Here are 3 examples of visual communication in the latest iOS that make this release unique:

GIFs & Emojis in Texting

visual communication in ios10 texts

What stood out to me most about iOS 10 was the new texting experience, which seemed to be a response to the increasing popularity of Snapchat among young Millennials and Gen-Z teens. Snapchat’s rapid growth has exemplified a shift among younger consumers, who prefer speaking a visual language. Now large brands like Apple are trying to catch up and speak visually in return.

When texting with the new OS, you’ll see that there are no longer always 3 word suggestions that pop up above the keypad as you type. Instead, there are often 2 word suggestions and an emoji, implying that there is now a universal icon for almost every word.

If you want to send a photo, you’ll see that more options than ever appear, allowing you to choose from libraries beyond your own. Now you can send a variety of animated GIFs to visualize your response rather than having to put your thoughts into words. You also have the opportunity to draw a response or add decorations to your own photos to better express your thoughts.

Animations & Reactions in Texts

visual communication in ios10 animations
iOS 10 brought so many changes to texting that it warrants a second mention. There are a lot of Easter eggs in the new texting app to be discovered over time. On my birthday, I found the first one. Any text I received with just the words “Happy Birthday” included balloons floating from the bottom of the screen. This small visual cue added an extra delight to the experience and led me to wonder if I could create similar animations beyond the preset birthday balloons. It turns out that with 3D touch, I could.

3D touch’s most notable options? Adding reactions and animations to texts. To add a reaction, simply tap and hold your finger on any text and multiple options will pop up. To add an animation, hold your finger on the send button and wait for animation options to appear. Options include effects on how the text bubble itself is delivered (like slamming it down as if dropping a mic at the end of a statement) and full-screen animations like the balloons in a birthday text. My personal favorite full screen option is the laser — so many possibilities.

Updated Health App

visual communication in ios10 health app

One of my favorite changes was to the health app. Anyone who knows me knows that I care a bit too much about my daily workout… it borders on obsession. Apple’s old health app already had a lot of great visual content, with a home screen dedicated to activity charts for almost anything you could think of. The latest version has taken things a step further though, with universal iconography acting as navigation for viewers.

The new home screen experience makes it easy to jump through categories just by tapping on visuals. Once you choose a category, a graph that best represents your data appears for quick review. If you dive deeper still, detailed line graphs appear so you can view activity over time. This mix of icons and data visualizations tells your story with as little text as possible.

The List Goes On

The above are just a few examples, but it’s easy to find dozens of visual content changes in the new OS. From a visually focused home screen to facial recognition in photos and more, it’s clear that Apple, a brand known for its reliance on quality design and visual information, is taking some of the trends that it helped start to a whole new level.

For more about how visual communication applies to mobile design, click here.

Amy Balliett

Author Amy Balliett

A Cleveland native, Amy Balliett moved to Seattle in 2004 to take in the scenes of the Pacific Northwest for “a few years.” Now with permanent roots in the city, she still prides herself on her Cleveland roots and rustbelt work ethic. She owned her first company, a candy store and ice cream parlor, at the age of 17 before heading off for college. She subsequently built a successful career in SEO and marketing, and has headed up SEO at several companies. In 2009, she partnered with Nick Grant to build lead-gen-based websites, but in the fall of 2010, the business pivoted to an entirely new model: infographic design. In the years since, as CEO of Killer Infographics she has helped the company become an industry leader, driving visual communication campaigns for nonprofits and Fortune500 clients including Microsoft, Boeing, Adobe, Nikon, Starbucks, the National Endowment for the Arts, the United Nations, and more.

More posts by Amy Balliett

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