Visuals can express ideas or convey information in ways that words sometime can’t. They help to make abstract concepts concrete for readers; therefore, as a technical communicator, it is vital to know how to use visuals to your advantage. Visuals can work to help readers see what something looks like without having to describe it in writing, such as photos, illustrations, and maps. Visuals can also be effective in representing data, such as quantities or financial information.
The principles of good writing—clarity, conciseness, directness, etc.—are equally important to consider when using visuals. Much of what’s been discussed so far about assessing audience and understanding purpose in writing also applies to using visuals. Clear visuals with appropriate context, such as introducing and discussing the visual, can help readers focus on key elements of your document, presentation, or website. Visuals without appropriate context run the risk of being overlooked or possibly misunderstood; even the best-looking visual will not help if your reader doesn’t understand what it is or why it is there.
Watch the following video, “Using Graphics in Technical Documents” by Clinton Lanier, for more information on using visuals effectively: