#7: How to use visuals to make a point

A brief guide to conveying complex concepts and creating influence, no matter your skill level

journey map.png

At Civilla we use visuals to make a point. I recognized this for the first time at the beginning of my interview process. As Mike and Lena walked me through the Re:form Tour, I was struck by the hand-drawn journey map depicting an individual’s painful attempt to apply for public benefits. Somehow, they’d managed to create a completely immersive, eye-opening experience that was also deceptively simple.

In that moment, I knew I was in the right place. I thought: 

“These people aren’t even illustrators but they have a clear understanding of how to tell a visual story in a creative and impactful way.”

As an illustrator myself, I was geeked.

In my career, I have seen so many presentations that fall short; they feature a lot of words and a handful of Google-searched images, usually selected as an afterthought. However, these presentations are rarely effective because they do little to engage the audience, drive home the point or create a sense of urgency to act on the ideas presented.

If you’ve ever given this type of presentation, it’s okay. You’re not alone. Perhaps you’re thinking, “How can I fix this?” Or maybe, “I’m not creative, Google images will have to do.” Either way, I’m here to tell you there is hope — no matter your skill level. Here’s how…

Select your topic

Think about an upcoming presentation you have to give, a meeting you have to run, or an idea you’d like to pitch. The more specific you can be, the better. Once you’ve selected a topic to focus on, it’s time to dive in.

Collect inspiration

Next up, create a list of synonyms, phrases, and emotions that relate to your topic. Then, leverage your cheapest and most valuable resource: the Internet. Use the words you generated as search terms and start collecting images, quotes, styles, colors, and tones that inspire you. These will help you develop a vision for your visual content.

Not sure where to start? Create a mood board by arranging your findings in a document using free resources like PinterestUnsplash or The Noun Project.

At this point, take time to share your vision with someone else and ask: “Does this idea make sense?”

You’ll know you’re ready to move forward when you have a strong vision for how you want to present your message visually (that others understand!).

Craft your vision

All the visual content you assembled is filled with material for you to borrow and build on. Adapt the imagery or typography or layout that you found inspiring and see if you can recreate it in your work.

To put your presentation together, you have a few options:

  • If you’re feeling ambitious, you can create your own images (simple stick figures can go a long way!). Drag and drop tools like canva.com can help bring your vision to life - no design skills necessary!

  • If drawing is out of the picture, look to your community. Who do you know who might like to help you convey your message in a visual way?

  • Finally, if you are too busy to learn a new skill and have the capital, you can hire an artist. There are many illustrators, graphic designers, and photographers out there, ready and willing to put their stamp on the world. Show them your research, describe your vision, and work with them to bring your story to life.

Now, there’s only one question left:

How will you use visuals to make a point in a beautiful and compelling way?

– Scott + the team

Adam Selzer