Visual Content Marketing: Illustrate the Point

The internet brought power back to the word but, somehow, the pencil got left behind. But now, it’s making a comeback. People are beginning to understand the importance of visuals in their content marketing and are illustrating their words with drawings, animations and infographics.

Visuals are important in not only getting your audience’s attention, they’re critical in getting them to remember you. There’s study after study which show we retain and comprehend information far better with visuals than we do with text alone.

One study has shown that we remember 65% of visual information, but only 10–20% of written or spoken information. YouTube is the perfect example of this as it’s the world’s second most popular search engine – clearly showing that we want to see our information.


Learning recall related to type of presentation

Presentation Ability to recall
After 3 hours After 3 days
Spoken lecture 25% 10-20%
Written (reading) 72% 10%
Visual and verbal (illustrated lecture) 80% 65%
Participatory (role plays, case studies, practice) 90% 70%

Adapted from: Dale 1969.


All this holds true for your content marketing. Yes, sharp copy is necessary for thoroughly conveying the details of research and other information, but if you neglect to include drawings, animations and infographics, your message may never get across. It’s time for a new rule of content marketing: Don’t tell, show.


More than a trend

This preference for visual communication is leading to more and more hand-drawn explanations, or ‘whiteboard animations’, on YouTube. One of the most well known, and most viewed, was created by The RSA, based on Dan Pink’s speech, ‘The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us’. It has a not-insubstantial 14.5 million views to date.


“When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence … visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth’—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information.”   – R.E. Horn, Stanford University


One study’s results showed that adding just one image to text improves comprehension by nearly 90%. That’s why infographics are increasingly finding their footing in visual content marketing. Infographics convey statistics, facts and processes, making content easier to digest by reducing the amount of text – or highlighting the key points from dense text – and balancing the black-on-white with visuals. Check out this example below:

11 Fascinating Facts About the Human Heart

human heart facts

We’re beginning to add illustrations to our content marketing, because they are shown over and over again to improve retention and comprehension. BUT. There’s another reason too.

Visuals delight.

Surprise and delight your audience

One company, despite interacting with billions of us every day, still manages to surprise and delight us with their use of illustrations: Google and their Google Doodle.

Who else is a little bit intrigued, a little bit surprised, when they see a Google Doodle on an otherwise-random day? Who hovers over the doodle, curious to see what special day it is, which discovery we’re celebrating, or whose birthday it would have been. It’s different. It’s interesting. It’s fun.
Untitled-2-02 copy

Taking an illustrative approach

Illustrations capture our interest and our imaginations. They help us to see beyond the words to truly grasp information. Illustrations complement content by aiding the reader in understanding and retaining what is being said, making the entire content package more effective, more interesting and, most important of all, more lasting than text alone.

Try illustrating your content and see if it helps you to illustrate the point.

Ready to rethink your content marketing? Here are some things you may want to consider:

1. Ask yourself the question: Would the reader understand more clearly what I’m trying to explain if I added an illustration?
2. Consider the content, the media and the illustration type. Some illustration types are better suited for some media and content than others. For example, a highly detailed medical illustration can perfectly capture a complex concept, or an animation could illustrate a lengthy process far better than a flow chart.
3. Think about what your words can’t do – however well they paint a picture. That’s what your visuals are for, and what their conception should be based on. know how to take complex medical and scientific information and turn it into understandable illustrations. Our medical illustrations range from hand-drawn drawings, computer graphics, mode-of-action videos and animations. If you need help putting pencil to paper, you can find us here: