Visualize Your Kernels

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November 2, 2013 by Kathryn Kuttis

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November is here.

Visual communication is a lot like writing. It’s hard. It takes time and when it’s good you know it immediately.

This week my J452 students will research and design their own infographic. As strategic communicators, they are bound to discover the rush of satisfaction that comes from combining words and images to tell a compelling story.

Of course to get there you first have to find a story to tell. It will need a beginning, middle and an end. Once that’s decided, then the struggle to visualize really begins.

No one knows this better than San Francisco-based startup An online community of designers, it offers visualization tools and services that communicate complex ideas in a clear and beautiful way. I enjoyed reading a post on their blog called Turning Difficult Concepts into Pretty Pictures at MIT. In it Christine Daniloff, creative director at MIT News, explains how she uses a single image to convey what an article is about.  Before she gets started on a visual illustration, she first tries to get her own head around the research and figure out how it applies to the broad audience. She asks: “Why should we care about this information?”

While we may not need to depict complex scientific data (at least not this week), Daniloff’s simple question can help lay out a visual story. It reminds us that the task at hand is to connect with the audience. As we know from writing, the challenge of strategic communication is about finding a way to make the information you want to share interesting and relevant to them.

Along with the public relation’s headlines, our blog kernels this week will focus on visual communication strategies that grab attention, underscore brand strengths and offer new ways to visualize complex information.

Here they are:

Are Infographics Losing their Mojo or Do They Need to Evolve (Business2Business) Hurry up and change. Everything moves so fast. Are we creating outdated inforgraphics already?

Don’t Mix Social Media and Alcohol (Ragan) Infographic shows the dangers of tweeting while under the influence. Has this ever happened to you? What do you think the rules should be? Any examples you’ve witnessed?

Creating the Broccoli Craze (NYTimes) What happens when an advertising agency markets fresh fruits and vegetables? What kind of information does this video deliver? How was it memorable?

Star Wars Imperial Forces Invade Thomas Kinkade’s Precious Paintings (Fast Company) Are you captivated by these visuals? What associations do you bring to the table when you see them? Mash-ups blend elements of one image with another to transform them into something completely new. Create your own mash-up to tell a visual story.

Virgin America Just Launched the Sassiest Safety Video You’ve Ever Seen (Mashable) Sometimes the most powerful way to reinforce your brand is to turn something well know inside out for all to see. Now that you know your brand identity, what could you do to show it off? How is Virgin underscoring its brand?

Conan O’Brien Dosen’t Think Much Of LinkedIn ‘Influencers’ (Mediabistro) Not every brand can be as irreverent as a late night talk show host but does Conan have a point? Will the ‘Influencer’ designation be in your next PR program?

Want to Boost Your Social Media Following? Get Visual (Inc) Here’s how smart companies are amping up their visuals to engage customers and why they’ll want to hire you if you can do it for them.

Six Reasons Why the Texans Cheerleaders Rank No. 1 On Social Media (Sportsrant) Seriously these girls are working it.

Why Abraham Lincoln Loved Infographics (Newyorker) As usual, The New Yorker gives us the biggest picture in town. This time they put some historical perspective on the infographic hype. Apparently visual intelligence has been around awhile.

Twitter Forcing Media Previews on Web Client Users is Not Cool (Techcrunch) Is Twitter ruined now that ads and random visuals are allowed to show up in your timeline? Did it evolve or lose sight of the simplicity of the 140 character tweet?

Sports Illustrated Cover Makes Huskies Fans Look Like Duck Fans (Seattlepi) Photoshop can help make the visuals you need even if they don’t exist. Is this ethical? Does it happen all the time? Would you be willing to alter an image for the sake of your story?


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If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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