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The Power of Visual Communication: A New York Times Example

A recent article in the New York Times did a beautiful job of illustrating the value of visuals in communicating complex concepts.

The article, “Charting an Omicron Infection” by Emily Anthes and Jonathan Corum, uses a series of simple illustrations to explain complicated concepts, such as infection, incubation, viral load, severity, testing, and isolation.

This illustration, for example, lays out the stages of an infection, from exposure to recovery:

Visual communication example

“Charting an Omicron Inflection,” New York Times, January 24, 2022.

Now you could explain all this in writing (and the authors do). But they’re not the easiest concepts to absorb, especially if the terminology and concepts are new.

But the written explanation, along with the illustrations, couldn’t lay the ideas out more clearly.

Another illustration shows how the original Coronavirus variant compares to the Delta and the Omicron variants in terms of incubation period:

Illustration of exposure and symptoms

“Charting an Omicron Inflection,” New York Times, January 24, 2022.

Again, this is explained in the text. But once again, these simple illustrations do a lot of heavy lifting to make these concepts clear.

Besides, at this point, we’ve all seen a billion articles about Coronavirus. So anything that can help an article stand apart—such as these illustrations—is a good thing.

My point is this: when done well, written copy and graphics can work together to bring ideas and concepts to life. It’s an example where the whole is greater than the sum of the two parts.

And that’s true whether it’s a New York Times article—or your marketing content.

Posted: January 29, 2022 in: Content Marketing

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