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3 Types of Visual Information We Use Everyday, And Why They Work

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Unfortunately you will only remember 20% of what you’re about to read.

Why is that?

Because we only recall 20% of what we read, and only 10% of what we hear. Isn’t that insane?

But here’s the flip-side, we can easily remember 80% of what we see.

That’s right, and just so you remember it, here’s a visual:

visual learning

(Image from VisualWebsiteOptimizer)

This seems odd at first, but when you really start to think about it – it completely makes sense.

Why do you think memes on Reddit are so easy to recall? Why do you think you can recite movies word for word but can’t remember what you read once you got to the bottom of the page?

It’s because we are visual learners, genetically. Yes, we learn a lot through reading and through hearing, but we learn the absolute most through visual information.

Even companies like Bacardi are taking advantage of this simple fact, by teaching you to make cocktails on Vine.

But what are some of the more common examples? What are some that we use every day that are set up for this exact reason and we don’t even realize it?

1. Traffic & Car UX icons

Your left and right blinkers, your front and rear defrost, your traction control, your hazard lights, hospital signs, and airport icons.

If you have a friend with a broken arm, you know when you see this sign that you need to turn in.

hospital visual

You don’t have to wait and say, “Hey, was that a hospital?” – you know, and you act on it.

Driving is all about split-second decisions that could literally mean life or death, so we don’t have time to recall 20%, we have to use our entire visual scope to quickly discern and decide how we need to react.

For example, Apple’s “CarPlay” is going to focus heavily on their icons to minimize the time you have to think about what you’re using, as shown in this image:

apple carplay icons

(Apple Inc.)

If anyone knows what usability and quick, easy interaction means, it’s Apple.

When this goes wrong though is when visual input is not well architected and can be genuinely dangerous, as Geoff Teehan mentioned in “The State of In-Car UX.”

2. Logos

When you see a Twitter logo next to a username, you know exactly what it means.

Why?

Because you’ve been conditioned, visually. Icons stick, logos stick, this is why they exist.

Even the colors we use in logos come into consideration when designing, because we often attach a sub-conscious emotion to the colors we see. As represented in this infographic from the Daily Infographic blog:

color's emotional response to a logo

We associate green with peaceful and healthy, blue with trust, grey with balance, and yellow with optimism.

So brands like Apple, Twitter, Google, Ebay, BP, Coca Cola and Best Buy take advantage of that by associating the color that best describes their brand. When you look at their logo you have an instant, visceral emotional reaction to it, either for better or for worse. They count on it.

3. Warnings

Exit, do not enter, keep out, guard dog, biochemical, don’t swim, the list goes on.

Essentially we use warning signs to quickly and efficiently stop bad things from happening. It’s easier for someone to comprehend a “NO DIVING” sign quickly than a paragraph saying:

“Do not dive into the pool head first, the pool is only three feet deep, you are a grown adult and your skull will be cracked on the bottom of the pool resulting in a fair amount of pain and hospital bills that are sure to toss you spiraling into debt, it’s really not worth it.”

This is just easier:

no diving sign

I was going to dive into a river in Costa Rica once until I saw a small sign in the middle of the river, I looked closely and saw that it said, “Giant crocodiles, don’t swim” and I kept away. Had I not visually noticed that a sign was sticking out of the water and stopped, I would have had an unwarranted Ace Ventura-like experience.

Essentially

We are visual learners, visual experiencers, visual beings. This is why many companies are taking advantage of visual information to interest people on a very large scale, to connect socially with pictures, with questions, and with answers.

Instagram lets people connect on a visual level, taking pictures of their food, experiences, travels, and most often, themselves.

Jelly lets people ask questions and get answers about visual information. If you want to know if a spider is poisonous or if it’s safe, take a picture and ask a question (not that you should just go play with random spiders anyway, but you get the point).

This is part of the reason we are building Spectafy. We believe that an image speaks a thousand words, more than we can really capture by simply telling someone if the surf is up, if there are enough people to play basketball at the local gym, if their favorite bar is crowded tonight, if there is an awesome dj at their favorite club, or if the sunset is worth the drive.

We want to bring information straight to your retinas through images captured in real-time.

Request an image of the location you want photographed, what you want in it, a short description, and someone nearby will be pinged and respond with a beautiful image, answering your question and leaving them happy for helping.

If you’d like to be notified when our app goes live, keep up to date by subscribing below!

We can’t wait to bring the beauty of real-time visual information to you.

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Sean Smith

Sean develops community at Spectafy.