Adding strong visual impact to your communications can be critical. Photographs, illustrations, and graphics can enliven text and help you connect with your audience on an emotional or visceral level. As in all your communications work, it is critical to be clear first of all about what it is you are trying to say about your research or project. Once you know that, then it’s time to start thinking about a “visual” that will serve to complement, make memorable, and if possible amplify your message in interesting ways.
Many messages automatically evoke a visual representation. For example, if your message is about the rapid growth of the oldest old in America,” a literal visual expression might be a population chart. However, if you think in metaphorical and/or symbolic terms, your options for images are only as limited as your imagination. For example, you could use an image of an explosion (“explosive growth”), or you could talk about the “age wave” and use an image of a large wave.
If you are doing a presentation about the issue of sleep fragmentation, you may be tempted simply to use a photo of someone tossing and turning. But you might also consider an image of shattered glass shards or puzzle pieces strewn on a table. If your message is about the long-term challenges of care giving, then instead of a tired caregiver with his or her loved, one, you might use an image of a struggling long distance runner could work.
You get the idea. Think about the metaphors, analogies, or colorful or expressive language you use in your message(s) to describe your work, and then seek associated images.
Finding the right image
Bandwidth provides a database of low or no-cost photographs, clip art illustrations, cartoons that may be helpful. We also have a robust set of links to places where you can find these and other kinds of visuals such as video clips, motion clip art, and other forms of art work. These can be found here.
Taking your own
If you have access to a camera, why not try to create your own image? Your first inclination may be to take a photograph of an older patient or people. This has its challenges (think HIPAA concerns for one think), but you can click here for Tips for Taking Photographs of People (Developed with help from photographer Annie Levy). Even easier may be taking pictures of objects that express a metaphor describing your message (No HIPAA!). You might also look through family and other household photos you have taken and may be on your hard drive for images you can use.
General Tips on Using Images and Graphics Effectively. This document sets out four key tips to taking and using photos.
Communicating via Imagery is a great online guidebook from the Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication.