I’m a content marketer, so when it comes to words, I’m pretty confident. It doesn’t really stress me out to come up with new ideas for blogs, newsletters, or even catchy social media posts on the fly. I have my tried-and-true ideation methods for thinking up something interesting to write, even when I have writer’s block. But when it comes to generating visual ideas? That’s a whole different story. Ask me to come up with a logo for your company, a marketing flyer, or a product label, and what you’ll most likely get is a long, blank stare.
If you’re a more verbal thinker like me, you may have also become stuck when you’ve been asked to generate a visual idea or image for a project. In fact, many verbal thinkers may find visual creativity downright intimidating.
However, if you want to create good content that draws readers in and captures their attention, it’s important not to disregard the importance of your content’s visual components. Here are some telling facts:
- A team of neuroscientists from MIT found that the human brain can process entire images that the brain sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.
- Researchers at the Rotman Institute of Baycrest Center, Toronto Canada did a study that showed that pictures are remembered by humans much better than words. Visual images are actually better encoded in the brain.
- Studies show that colored images increase a reader’s attention span by 82%.
- Expert marketer Jeff Bullas believes that articles with images get 94% more views than those without.
So, verbal thinkers of the world, what to do when you need to come up with a visual idea? No need to throw in the towel or call in your creative team. In reality, there are some pretty easy, effective visual ideation methods that can get your creative juices flowing and help you come up with an attractive, effective visual idea.
Here are 3 of our favorite visual ideation techniques
1. Translation of sensory experiences
When it comes to creating visual ideas, you don’t just need to use your vision. You can get all 5 of your senses in on the project. The translation of sensory experiences method allows you to translate non-visual aspects of a subject in a visual manner.
Step 1: Make a list of non-visual (aural, textural, olfactory, etc.) sensory elements related to the subject you’re creating content about. (For example, if you’re creating content for a dish soap company, you may list elements like: the sound of gurgling water, the smell of lemon fresh cleaner, and the feel of soapy water on your hands.)
Step 2: If possible, create those sensory experiences for yourself (listen to running water, smell lemon-fresh soap, wash your hands in soapy water.)
Step 3: Take a pen and paper and try to draw a visual representation of how those sensory experiences felt to you.
Step 4: Use these individual sensory sketches to get at a commonly understood, but rarely visualized, aspect of your main topic.
2. Collaborative sketching
Sometimes the cliché is just true: two heads (or more!) are better than one. To use the power of a group to come up with an idea that is innovative, creative, and bigger than one you might be able to think up on your own, trying using a collaborative method in order to create a sketch.
Step 1: Take a piece of paper, and create a sketch of a central image related to your concept.
Step 2: Give the sketch to another member of your team, and have them sketch their own visual element.
Step 3: Repeat with all members of your team, until each has added a component to the drawing. You can also repeat multiple times within the same team.
Step 4: Look at the drawing you’ve created. While it might not be the final concept you want to use for your visual content, it may reveal linked visual elements that you might not have come up with on your own.
3. Rip and Rap
One of our favorite idea generation gurus, Bryan Mattimore (founder of the Growth Engine), touts a visual ideation technique that is simple but incredibly effective. It’s called “Rip and Rap,” and it may just remind you of the collaging you did in elementary school.
Step 1: Gather a group of people who are working with you to come up with the new idea.
Step 2: Split the group into teams of three or four.
Step 3: Provide each team with scissors, glue, poster board, and stacks of magazines. The magazines don’t have to directly relate to the subject at hand.
Step 4: Explicitly state the topic the teams should be thinking about. (e.g. if you’re trying to come up with a new header idea for your company’s blog, then that’s your topic).
Step 5: Give teams 30 minutes to flip through magazines and find images they think might be related or inspiring. Have them cut and paste the images onto the posterboards into a collage.
Step 6: Allow all teams to present their collage and a brief explanation behind the images.
Step 7: Have all teams share notes in order to come up with some new insight re: your visual idea.
Want to know more about coming up with visual ideas, why it’s important, and just how to do it? Check out our interactive ebook created in partnership with Ceros, How to Generate Good Visual Ideas. In it, you’ll not only learn more about the process of coming up with visual and interactive ideas, but also how to know if your idea is actually a good one.