Visual Explanations of Ideas

by Luke Wroblewski April 10, 2006

In It’s Simple -Design Communicates, I pointed out that companies that recognize the strategic value of design know the power of design lies in communication. These companies and their processes include designers and design artifacts when communicating or developing a vision.

Especially early on in the product development process, design artifacts are able to create buy-in for a product vision, provide market context, or illuminate data, processes, goals, and the impact of decisions. This potential is well documented in a white paper from Dynamic Diagrams that outlines Why Your Ideas Need Visual Explanations (PDF).

Though Dynamic Diagrams’ end results tend to skew toward being almost too “visually refined” (people often assume visually refined means locked down, which can negatively impact collaboration), their list of how visual explanation contributes to your bottom line is well worth a read -especially for designers looking to apply their skills toward communicating strategic direction.

Visual explanation benefits the bottom line

  • By allowing quicker and better decisions. When an organization considers its strategies, a visual explanation can reveal the nature of a problem or opportunity in one view, leading to faster consensus among executives and a more decisive response about what to do next.
  • By clarifying organizational and project strategies. Confusion among an organization’s different units and teams can lead to redundant and counterproductive efforts. A visual explanation crystallizes strategies in a presentation that all personnel can understand.
  • By revealing the value of a company’s products or services. For complex or highly technical products and services, a visual explanation can clarify how a product or service actually works and how it benefits its users.
  • By exposing anomalies in the data. A visual explanation can reveal unexpected problems or opportunities simply by showing existing information in a new way. This gives organizations an edge in achieving efficiency—or in breaking away from the pack.
  • By creating inspiration. A visual explanation creates a vision of what a company or its ideas could be; a vision draws funding and support. That’s a simple equation.