6 Ways to Use Illustrations to Enhance Your Written Content

For years, content marketers have relied on written content as the backbone of their content marketing strategies, and for good reason. Written content is relatively simple to produce, it loads fast on all devices, it’s easy to optimize for search engines, and it doesn’t have any subject or topic limitations. However, visual content (like images and video) offers some unique advantages that written content just can’t match. Learning to use visuals, such as illustrations and diagrams, in unison with your written content can help you achieve the “best of both worlds” and give your readers everything that they want in an online resource.

Why Visual Content Is More Engaging

These are just some of the reasons why visual content is more engaging to readers:

  • Faster information processing. First, written content has to be read, considered, and interpreted, while visual content can be interpreted at a glance (in most cases). It’s a faster form of information processing, and therefore more appealing to impatient readers.
  • Attention-grabbing nature. Images also catch your attention more than words, forcing you to stop when scrolling or simply making an article “look better” from a distance.
  • Simplicity from complexity. Images also have the power to take complex ideas and reduce them to something simpler, like how a bar graph can help you easily compare and contrast numerical sets from vastly different applications.
  • Flexibility and control. Visuals also give you more flexibility for creativity and experimentation, since you have more control over the final output.

Strategies for Using Illustrations Within Written Content

Try using these strategies when incorporating illustrations into your articles:

  1. Use charts and graphs to show off numbers. Numbers and data sets are hard to understand when they’re presented in a written format because analyzing them requires a degree of intuition and subjective reasoning. Charts and graphs allow you to tap into this area of processing, letting you show off your numbers in a way that’s intuitively easier to grasp. For example, this article on the 2016 election results is almost purely made up of charts and graphs to show running data—some of which are interactive.
  2. Use a comparison chart to make things easier to understand. Next, you could create a comparison chart to help consumers understand the strengths and weaknesses, or pros and cons, or even just the differences between two or more related concepts. For example, the comparison chart in this article on lipotropic injections makes it clear what the advantages and disadvantages of each type of injection are.
  3. Make a doodle for pure entertainment. Not all illustrations have to serve as ways to make concepts easier to understand or approach. In fact, sometimes the best illustrations are there purely for entertainment value. You could make a doodle of stick figures acting out the story you’re telling, or create a comic strip to prove your point. Internet celebrity The Oatmeal exploded in popularity due to the uniqueness of his illustrations and drawings.
  4. Diagram out a complex idea. You could also take the time to diagram out a complex idea. For example, if you’re writing about the history of your industry, you could use a simple timeline at the top to help your users follow along with your narrative. You could also summarize your main points in a table, or use a logical flow to illustrate how you arrived at a certain conclusion. Again, it’s a way to make a complex topic simpler.
  5. Photograph steps in a how-to article. If you’re writing a how-to article or some other kind of step-by-step guide, it can be helpful to include photographs or screenshots of the steps actually taking place in a live environment. For example, this article on how to change the oil in a car demonstrates each step of the process to make the written instructions clearer and easier to understand.
  6. Give examples of your topic in action. Finally, you could use visuals to show your topic in action. For example, if you’re writing about a physical product like a bicycle, you could use drawings or photos of the bike’s special features to enhance your written descriptions of them. For more abstract topics, like how to deliver a powerful speech, you could use images of people engaged in the activity (such as famous speakers).

With these strategies in tow and an understanding of why visuals are important in the first place, you’ll be able to take your written content to the “next level” and engage your audience in ways previously inaccessible. Like with any form of content, there are thousands of ways you can customize your approach here, and no single approach will work best for every brand; experiment until you find the angle that works best for you and your readers.