Visualcy and the New Language of Communication


The job of the innovator is to create a new culture. But the job of the communicator is to speak the language of the culture, or create a new language in order to communicate effectively. Recently, I heard David Kinamman, president of Barna Research, talk about visualcy. I immediately understood it and it gave name to a trend I have been aware of for quite some time.

Visual communication visualcy

  • Content is moving from passive to interactive from literacy to visualcy
  • The average American teenage consumes 34 gigs of information a day, mostly video games and television
  • Printed words account for less than 0.1% of today’s total communication
  • The average teen spends more than 10 hours a day looking at media

What are the implication for communicators? How is this shift impacting how you communicate?

  • Anonymous

    Advancements in technology have made video communications accessible on a mass scale. Businesses and ministries should leverage it to communicate information for both internal and external consumption.

    People love video and we’re surrounded by screens of all sizes now. Communicators need to learn to make and distribute compelling video content that translates to all of them – from the phone to the connected TV.

    I would hire a videographer/strategist to help me constantly create and share video content.

  • I think a major implication we will hear about down the road is that visualcy has led us to be become “skimmers” rather than careful “readers.”  This could very well bleed over into a tendency to become “skim writers.”   Have you noticed a tendency to get “sloppy” in emails, i.e. making grammatical errors or missing entire words you normally would never do?

    • I think that problem (skimming vs. reading) has as much to do with the volume of material as with visualcy. There’s just too much content to take in.

  • I preach shorter sermons (20-25 min. vs. 30-35 in the ’90s).

    I also try to include visual material whenever possible in the form of object-metaphors, photos, and videos. But this is harder to do than it looks (get it?) without being cheesy.

    •  It takes more effort and planning to incorporate visuals into sermons, but ultimately they help you become a better communicator.

  • Ed Weaver

    This is part of a trend that we’ve studied as a result of our work @t4global with oral learners in the 10/40 window.  While they’re mostly pre-literate or “less than literate”, the West is definitely trending downward in what we would call literacy.  We believe it affects learning styles everywhere, yet our educational models don’t seem to adapt.  None of the information indicates we’re less intelligent – it just means that we’re changing our inputs.  Good info – thanks for posting.

  • Visualcy. Great word to describe this shift in our culture. I think the meteoric rise of Pinterest provides a clear picture (no pun intended!) of what is taking place. This culture of visualcy does make presentation more challenging for communicators, but the good news is, everyone still loves a great story. We can still hook our listeners and readers with a compelling story (which, come to think of it, is exactly how Jesus communicated His message.) But it’s true: our stories need to be visual, whether we paint that picture with words or media. People today are constantly bombarded with images and those images are what they are using to process information, to learn and to play. Thanks for a great post and giving voice to what we see happening every day.

    •  I spoke about Pinterest today to a publishing group. Only a handful of people in the room were members.

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