Social channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Vine have soared in popularity and changed how we communicate. We post two-minute videos to put our creativity and inspirational messages on display. We reveal our feelings through emoticons. We exchange comedic memes to bring levity to an otherwise serious world. And we share insightful infographics that convince our audience to act and drive change. No wonder we are exposed to between 300 and 20,000 images on any given day!

Even though social media is relatively new, our practice of conveying a full range of messages and emotions through visuals is not. In fact, the human race has been communicating this way for over 32,000 years.

Our earliest ancestors told stories through cave paintings that featured animals and other resources in their environments. Then, the ancient Egyptians expanded on that first form of communication by using papyrus to draw a series of pictures that detail and document life, work, religion, and architecture. Over time, each generation found innovative ways to communicate – the Phoenicians created the first alphabet, the Bayeux Tapestry was woven to document the Norman conquest of England, and murals painted on cityscapes and in churches showed powerful messages of transformation.

And even though many technology breakthroughs have emerged to make communication through written words easier and faster, we all come back to our natural desire for visual storytelling.

Three stats that make the case for data visualization

If there’s any debate that our lives are flooded with data, check out these stats:

  • 90% of all data collected in history has been generated within the last two years (IBM’s 2015 Smarter Planet Report)
  • 90% of all online data is, indeed, visual, despite everything that’s ever been written (Cisco’s 2015 Visual Networking Index)
  • 90% of businesspeople have no idea how to effectively create or use visuals

While we are generating all of this information and imagery at a rate that is unprecedented, most of us still don’t know how to present them in a manner that is easy to understand and relate. Many executives may dismiss data visualization as a fad and exercise of art; however, this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

On average, we remember 10% of what we heard three days ago. But if you add an image, we’ll remember 65% of it.

In his white paper “Visual Storytelling in the Digital Age,” international, five-time bestselling author Dan Roam shared, “As far as your body is concerned, measure-for-measure, vision is the most important thing you do.”

Anywhere from 50% to 67% of our neurological horsepower is dedicated to vision, processing what we see and combining those visual inputs with our other four senses. This one function even outweighs the energy used just to keep our larger organs working (such as the heart, lungs, and lymphatic system) to keep us alive.

Biologically, our bodies are hardwired for processing visuals – not numbers and words, but pictures. We have an incredible capacity for retaining what we see. On average, we remember 10% of what we heard three days ago. But if you add an image, we’ll remember 65% of it.

When you consider the rate of data creation today, the use of data visualization as a storytelling tool is more important than ever before in our history. In essence, it’s the only thing that links your data to insight and moves insight into action.

Learn the importance of visual storytelling for business and how to do it effectively. Read Dan Roam’s white paper Visual Storytelling in the Digital Age.”

Dan Roam - 728x90

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