Images: Language of the 21st Century


We live in an image-rich culture.

Why do social causes use facial images of the poor and destitute?  Because those pictures connect to the emotional side of us. Images initially make us feel rather than think. Research proves that most people are visual. To go one step further, look at the money companies invest to create a visual that will firmly rest in our minds and hearts. They get it.

Consider this statement:

The child is hungry.


Does the image affect you differently than the statement? Of course.

Images are the language of the 21st century.
— Dr. Leonard Sweet

I remember the speech, Tribes, Seth Godin gave at Catalyst several years ago. No, I don't really remember his content, but I remember the images he used throughout his entire presentation. He did not specifically point to them on the large screens as he spoke, but they became the captivating and memorable element of his talk.

Our brains process printed words and images in different ways. The printed word is processed primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain, which specializes in logic, sequence, and categories. Images are processed primarily in the right hemisphere, which specializes in intuition and holistic perception rather than linear analysis.

I think about Jesus and his style of communication. He used everyday images his audience was familiar with. Why? He understood how people operate. Not only is the ear a God-ordained body part of how we interact with him, but the eyes are as well.

Images require two activities from us as readers of the Bible. The first is to experience the image as literally and in as fully a sensory was as possible.
— The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

One time I was prepare a talk for a group of young leaders that were coming from around the country when I decided to implement more images into my presentation. Was there a difference? Yes, the images said what I could not adequately say. In addition, the images gave a deeper emotional connection than words alone.

Words are brain protein. Images are brain candy.
— Shane Hipps

Remember when Nike used "Just Do It" in their branding? Now, you find just the swoosh. How about when Starbucks removed their name from the logo? Is there really a need to include the words "Disney World" when you see Mickey Mouse? Amazon can be identified by the smile on the box that is delivered to your door - no company name needed.

The mind was made to generate, create, and imagine. Creative imagination is a fundamental stage of brain development that begins very early in life. Kids naturally learn how to pretend. So when the mind generates a vast array of imagined pictures to bring a story to life, and then has them summarily replaced by the images of a movie, it is deeply unsatisfying.

May our messages become more potent by using images when speaking to people. When they forgot what we said, they will remember what they saw.

Before sharing your vision with someone or your team, stop and think about the images that you could first show to stir up an emotion or context before giving them your exact words. Every time I communicate to a group of potential volunteers, I use about eight images to stir within them a certain emotion I want them to feel before I bring home my point. They will probably forget my words, but they will remember their feelings that came from an image.