Look through any Pinterest or Twitter feed and you will come across a relatively new phenomenon - the resurgence of the visual content.
By visual content we mean not just photographs; memes, cartoons, drawings, but especially "infographics". These are diagrammatic representations of information that, even just a couple of years ago, would have been the preserve of the copywriter or the expert paper writer. No longer.
Infographics combine copy with graphs, diagrams, bubbles and statistics with information on subjects which range from “What to have for breakfast” to “How to get more traffic to your website” and everything in between. Here are some examples of typical infographics.
This trend started with the ability to source very cheap photographs from some of the popular microstock sites such as iStock, Shutterstock, and Fotolia. Where, once, it would have been prohibitively expensive to have published photographs to illustrate the concept, points, or other features of an article, shots costing pennies were now available. The biggest problem of all is that although photographs look good when illustrating, they are not very good at explaining. Gradually companies started seeing the sense of putting across visual information rather than reams and reams of copy.
This phenomenon coincided with the growth of mobile phones and tablets where the lack of a big screen made writing a lot of text very hard on the eyes. A combination of a larger size text combined with bright colors and plenty of illustrations and diagrams designed for the smaller screen seemed to be the answer.
The Y generation is particularly attuned to the concept of using emojis and GIFs.
Emojis take the form of a face which is usually yellow and has a range of expressions for everything from crying, through anger, to laughing loudly, and all points in between. Younger people, in particular, have taken to using emojis to express their feelings with one quick click of a mouse or phone button. Rather than a long-winded explanation of why they are happy, or upset, confused, or think something is totally crazy, they can now directly express these feelings with an emoticon image.
This graph illustrates the growth of emoji use on the social media platforms since 2010.
Twitter has now used emojis in a novel and interesting way by amalgamating them with hashtags.
Facebook, who are never slow at catching trends, and the ways in which people interact, are currently launching their Facebook “Reactions” emoticons. These will enable Facebookers not just to like something, but allow them to express exactly how they feel about it. They may feel anger, sadness, happiness, or confusion and now all of these can be revealed to a wider audience in real time.
Emojis are not yet right for everybody - nobody will be using them in their Harvard MBA dissertations, for example, but they certainly look as if they are here to stay in the immediate future.
The other, currently upcoming phenom, is the use of GIFs. GIFs are small snatches of video, usually with no sound. These are looped into a continuous snippet of video lasting for just several seconds. As with emoticons, the idea is to convey very easily and quickly, something which is hard to express. For example, if a friend did something stupid and you wanted to explain to another friend how you felt about it, you might send them a GIF, like this, to show your reaction.
Even here, within this blog, you can see the power and flexibility of using illustrations within your copy to demonstrate a concept or idea.
The world of communication has never been more fluid, and there are opportunities galore for students who are flexible and able to learn and take on new tasks quickly. The world of commerce particularly will be shaken up by this, as buying online becomes ever more prevalent and pronounced.
Getting your message across to Generation Y will be a challenge for those who cannot manage more than two screens at once, and visual prompts and sales methods will change - probably forever.
If you are going to be involved in any “communicating” job - whether customer facing or as part of a backroom team - after graduating, you need to give this new “movement” some thought. How will you be affected by it and what can you do to catch the wave? Do you need to polish up your skill sets to, at the very least, become conversant with these new trends?
See whether your college is putting on extra curricular courses on aspects that you consider to be important. Graduates in today’s job market need to be aware of more than just their narrow area of expertise. The world is connected globally now, and ideas and trends spread widely and quickly. It is easy to find yourself with a set of obsolete skills and qualifications if you are not aware of what is happening.
Think how revolutionary blogs were when they were first published, and imagine the impact now, of purely visual or video blogs, (vlogs). Do a SWAT analysis and an impact assessment.
The larger web based companies are latching on to this fast, and it is likely to cascade down to you very soon. Be prepared.