Over the years, several clients have approached me with a common problem; no matter how they described their product or service, people just didn’t seem to “get it”. Flow charts, diagrams, software spec sheets, no matter how much information was presented, the customer just couldn’t see how it worked.
How could such a “simple” solution be so hard to explain? After all, the target audience should know as much as I do, right?
Words and descriptions will only work if your audience has a good understanding of your message. As soon as your message starts treading into unknown territory, people start losing interest, fast.
Words are for chumps!
So then, why is it when we have a complex or technical problem, we turn to confusing and complex words to describe them? Dan Roam, a visual-thinking guru, and author of The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin believes that our culture has been trained to focus heavily on words. And I couldn’t agree more!
Written text forces us to describe our problems as narratives or itemized lists; yet a complex problems (like my client’s) is not so easy to describe in words – at least without a proper visual-aid.
Clearing the mental block
Without a “road map”, how do you know which systems are connected to each other and which are bypassed? Drawing a picture, or as in this case, creating an information graphic can help clarify what’s really going on with little to no wording.
“If you want everyone to have the same mental model of a problem, the fastest way to do it is with a picture,” says David Sibbet, a visualization expert who’s 25 years of experience has been helping people around the world communicate and collaborate in groups. Unfortunately, our society has labeled picture-drawing as childish, leaving creative visual solutions to fall at the wayside.
So, the next time you encounter a complex problem, embrace your problem with a proper visual first, and let words be your support.