Like What You See?
The Psychology of Illustration: A Snapshot.😉
"A picture is worth a thousand words" - A phrase popularised in the 1920s by advertising executive Fred R. Barnard.
Was he right?
Well, he certainly knew how to sell a lot of books. He knew one look was often all it took - not one read - not a great sentence - not an amazing story hook - one look. He believed the book cover was where most sales were won or lost. What happened between the covers - a secondary consideration.
Most of you are writers who find meaning in well placed words. You search them out irrespective of how shabbily they may be dressed. However, be honest, are you immune to the honeytrap of an old tale in a fur coat?
I know I am not.
(Side Note: No... it is not just because I am easy! Cheeky!)
I am a human being, unrelentingly at the mercy of the human condition. Time, tiredness, lack of focus, too many options... even primary drives like hunger and thirst can all play a part in stopping me from making a logical, informed, objective, or rational decision about what to read.
My brain... in fact let's extend and generalise here... ALL our brains, are governed by psychological mechanisms or Behavioural Economics that help us navigate the world around us without getting too saturated or over-whelmed by the detail contained within it.
The pioneer in this field, and a Nobel Prize winner off the back of it, is Daniel Kahneman. In his book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" he scientifically and comprehensively demonstrates how our instincts take over so many of our choices because we do not have the time, capacity or capability to logically work through every option that comes our way. Choosing a book because you like the picture is instinct - it is evolution combined with learned experience influencing you to "save time... trust your gut.... it feels right... looks right.... don't sweat the small print."
The people who are masters at selling books know this is how we buy and they absolutely play to it.
Sure, there will always be specific texts or personal recommendations that may arrive dog eared and coverless and we will, of course, readily devour the content. We don't need pictures to sell us the read in such circumstances... we are already sold. However, if we are judging whether to read something without any prior history of it then the first thing we do is assess how it looks and whether it "fits" us.
And that is not all....
Now, I hesitate as I write this, fully aware I am on what is essentially a platform dedicated to the written word but... deep breath... I am going in anyway....
Pictures can communicate better than words.
Ok. Ok. Ok. Steady on everyone. I am not suggesting that we should revisit Austen, Dickens and Dostoyevsky and turn them into picture books.
I am simply underscoring the general value of images.
Let's look at some interesting facts....by way of a visual... When in Rome!!!
Pictures are an underused glory of Vocal. In a sea of a thousand words we each have the opportunity of illustration to make a point of difference and expediate engagement with our fast thinking readers.
Not at the expense of the written word but as a way to compliment it, to draw attention to it.
Understanding the psychology of our readers is so vital to actually getting stuff read. Isn't that, when all is said and done, what we all want?
So, fellow Vocal writers, how will you go forwards from here...
1. Your words are your pictures. You are not a cave man.
2. Embrace the visuals. Weave them in whenever you can. Play to human nature. Your words the feast for the soul and the pictures a feast for the eyes.
How will you play?