The Science Behind Visuals for Engaging

A good engagement will capture the audience’s attention and garners interest. The goal is to have the reader remember the information and get them engaged, ready to do something. This is often challenging to do, especially in the rush of today’s day and age. It’s difficult to hold someone’s eyes to a page long enough to tell them what you want to tell them. It makes you wonder, how can you effectively engage with your audience promptly, whilst getting what you intend to say purposefully across?


Many recommend the use of Visuals with your text. A lot of marketers will preach about visuals being their saviour to boosting engagement with people quickly and effectively.


Still have doubts about it or just want to get useful tips on choosing the right visuals? Read on to know the science behind why visuals work and gain some insightful tips to what type of visuals you should be using.

The Why To Visuals

1.     Brain Power can identify images in 13 milliseconds

Amazingly the brain can identify an image seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. Imagine how much information the brain can process in just in the blink of an eye

2.     ~65% of the population best learn Visually

In the general population, the distribution of the three learning styles is: 65% Visual, 30% Auditory, and 5% Kinaesthetic.


Visual learners remember best what they see, such as:

  • Pictures
  • Diagrams
  • Flow Charts
  • Timelines
  • Maps
  • Films
  • Demonstrations


Auditory learners remember best in written or spoken words, such as:

  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Verbal Discussions
  • Rhythmic Patterns such as Songs, Poems, or Rap


Kinaesthetic learners remember best through tactile (touching and doing with their body) ways such as:

  • Practical workshops
  • Sports
  • Charades
  • Laboratory demonstrations
  • Movement


 The Solomon-Felder Index of Learning Styles specifies one dimension of learning styles as visual/verbal. The most effective approach to letting your audience understand and remember what you are saying is to actually combine Visuals with Verbal.

3. 'The Pictorial Superiority Effect’

Research has shown that people are going to retain pictures more than texts. The vast majority of human history has been communicating through visuals such as drawings. Writing and reading are learnt abilities that have come later in life. And as Brown (Author of The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently) points out, “We are neurologically wired with an overwhelmingly visual sensory ability” (222).


Pictures are not only more effortless to recognise and process than words, but also easier to recall. Researchers have concluded, adding illustrations to text aids comprehension and learning. If you can explain it through a picture, do it.

Here are 4 Tips on Using the Right Visuals.

1.     Simplicity is key

Trim down unnecessary steps for the audience.

Just follow Occam’s Razor – The principle of simplicity or parsimony. A simpler idea is preferred over a complex explanation. Why overcomplicate and have it pass over someone’s head when you can save time for yourself and the other person by keeping it simple.


Have a look at the examples below to capture the same result in one view, compared to three separate views being used.

2.     Tell a good story using Digital Story-telling

Use digital tools such as videos, podcasts, social media posts, and interactive elements like maps. Maps are a great interactive tool which can help engage.

There’s a large influence that can be made through the use of visuals like maps, images, and videos. Imagine presenting projects and ideas and the difference it would make between a 1-minute video compared to a 3000-word essay. 









Full Extract of infographic information;

Megan Girdler, founder of digital engagement agency Future.Boutique, helped VicRoads to set up engageVicRoads and created 15 interactive maps for various transport projects in 2015-2016:




“Maps are a great engagement medium. When I was working on transport infrastructure projects in 2016 we’d see an average of 10-15% of visitors making a contribution. Whereas for surveys and forums we’d see around 5-8%, and 8-10% respectively. This would differ based on how engagement tools were set up, who the audience was, and the topics/issues explored in the project.”

3.     Choose Colours based on what you are using it for

Make sure you consider the colour elements you plan on including into your next project.


They make a difference in decisions and can influence a great deal of emotions. So, it is important to choose the right colours if you want to boost your engagement and participation. Here’s an infographic to help you make some decisions on choosing the right colours for your next project.

Colours are attractive, and naturally, humans are drawn to colours. Colour preference is a strong influencer in human behaviour. Here are some facts you might like to know about colours:

  • Colour increase readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%,
  • Enhance the locating of information by 70%,
  • Improve comprehension by 73%,
  • Increase learning and retention by 78%, and
  • Boost survey participation by 80%.


If you would like to know more facts about colours, click here.

4.     Faces will get attention

Try to include a friendly smile, or a face somewhere.


There’s an actual part of your brain responsible for recognising faces called Fusiform gyrus. People naturally search for faces and often will personify onto inanimate objects. That is why when people advertise things, they use a familiar face like celebrities, or create a mascot with a face as it will be quickly looked for.


It is a good idea to include a friendly face somewhere if you want eyes darting around quickly to a particular spot.

That's it!

So get choosing! Remember, text works best when there are visuals to go with it. Don't forget to think about who you will be targeting with your engagement project when you make your decisions!

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