Why visuals are a must-try learning tool


Explorer, eternal learner, animal lover. Perpetually drawn to the ocean. Adventure ready. Suffers from wanderlust. Likes chasing things down the sink with the little sprayer thingy.

People like visual stuff, right? Photos that accompany their newspaper and magazine articles, graphs and graphics that demonstrate and visualize some of the content of a report, pictures that support and augment a story: there’s no question that visual components help us understand the world around us.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that visuals really *do* help us learn. Consider this: does a graphic description help you get the idea of something more quickly than text? It probably does.  Here’s an example.


I’m willing to bet you knew within a fraction of a second what a circle was just by looking at the graphic representation. But if you didn’t see that and just had to read the text, you’d need to think about it for a second.

The graphic below outlines some fun statistics on how the brain processes graphics vs text, and offers some do-s and don’t-s for using visuals that apply whether you’re working on a school project, work project, website, or something else.  Check it out to learn more!

How Visuals Help Us Learn

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • The brain can process 36,000 visual cues in an hour
  • The brain takes about 1/10th of a second to get the idea of a visual scene
  • Almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing
  • Black and white images garner your attention for about 2/3 of a second
  • Color images garner your attention for 2+ seconds
  • The average consumer’s attention span is only about 8 seconds
  • The brain processes visual cues 60,000 times faster than text
  • 40% of nerve fibers are linked to the retina
  • The use of visuals improves learning outcomes by about 400%

Do-s and Don’t-s for Visual Use


  • Use visuals to help clarify complex ideas
  • Use visuals that represent people, places, and things
  • Use catchy visuals
  • Use visuals that help viewers make connections and understand new information
  • Use visuals that help viewers relate new information to what they already know


  • Use poor quality visuals, like things that are pixelated, stretched weird, sized improperly, or don’t fit in the space
  • Use ugly visuals
  • Use visuals that don’t make a clear connection to the material presented
  • Use irrelevant visuals, like a series of shapes that have no meaning
  • Use copyrighted visuals without permission!


View Comments (1)

1 Comment

  1. Carol Varsalona

    July 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    A great visual is a lead in to learning. Thanks for the facts about visuals. Enlightening. I am committed to highly visual representations and think that words pop out when they are included in an engaging visual.

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