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Author Jani Moisala
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The power of visual communication in the age of information overload

The amount of digital information generated on a daily basis is mind boggling. Information management and communication systems are currently coping, but what about human minds? Many are feeling the pressure of information overload; the ever-increasing volumes of data and the speed at which humans are bombarded with it can be overwhelming. Visual communication has the potential to ease the burden on communication receivers.

The information age has brought a sense that humans are surrendering to technology and hoping that artificial intelligence powered by quantum computing will fix human limitations. This means that humans are becoming obsolete, not just in information creation, processing and communication, but in decision-making too.

In the future, the perfect balance may be found by fusing the human brain, digital information and artificial intelligence with the use of technologies such as Neuralink. That will be a moment of transcendence and the path to the biggest jump in human evolution into the realms of the hive mind and singularity.

To understand the current and limited, but human-steered path, one needs to consider the root cause and need for information. If one simplifies the matter, the need to grow, learn and communicate is the driving force behind all related technological advances. The need for information has created an overload, which has led to the situation where humans are struggling to cope even with today’s demands.

The future is set to be even more demanding. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for limited human capacity. The best one can do is stop contributing to the global information overload, and relieve it by making information content and communication methods more suitable for humans. In the age of information overload, visual communication has powerful possibilities.

Taking on the information overload with visual communication

A picture is worth a thousand words is a commonly known phrase. A thousand words corresponds to around two pages of text. If the saying is true, a well-crafted three-minute video should be able to tell the story of a 300-page book with 600 words squeezed onto each page. Every second of the video would correspond to the informational value of one picture and a thousand words. The average adult can read about 300 words per minute, which means that the book would take 10 hours of continuous and uninterrupted reading to complete.

A picture is worth a thousand words

A professional three-minute 3D-animation with infographics takes around 300 hours to produce. Compared to the time-consuming book, this video content will start easing the collective information overload from the first view. After 30 views, it will start minimising the overload by 10 hours per view.

Even if one does not agree with the 3 minutes versus 300 pages theory, and considers it to be only a tenth thereof (30 pages), it would still correspond to one hour of reading. This means that information overload levels would start falling after just 300 views.

Most information is still produced and digested in the form of text or speech. These are easy and convenient ways compared to more informative and tightly packed methods like images and videos. Off course, basic daily communication should be handled in the most convenient way, but one should think twice if the information is meant for larger group.

Alternative product communication media

Many readers of this magazine are designers, manufacturers, and marketers of complex mechanical products that create value for end customers. The products are at the core of business communication to satisfy informational needs with all parties throughout the products’ life cycles.

To make product information suitable and easily digestible for humans, the focus should be on visual communication; images and videos are a good starting point. Interactive content provides an efficient solution and a better experience as it can adapt to different situations and informational needs.

Many technologies and platforms support the creation and publishing of visual and interactive content. The aim of this article is not to delve into these elements, but rather to focus on visual communication from the end user’s viewpoint and the alternative means of presenting visual product information.

When considering product communication media, printed content can not be dismissed. It still has its place and is a good platform to present images. Most visual content is presented and digested through displays, which in many cases allows for interactive content. 3D printing is fusing the digital and physical worlds, opening the door to new to new opportunities, while also providing an excellent product communication solution through scale models. At the top of the visual communication chain are different X Reality options all the way up to stereo imaging with actual scale and depth perception and the option to interact with the product.

Professionally crafted visual communication decreases the load on the message receiver.

Accurate and effective product visualisation

The starting point for product visualisation is always the same, regardless what technologies, platforms and media are used to present the content. The process should also be as efficient as possible. It makes sense, therefore, to collect existing information from high quality sources to kick-start visualisation.

The most important and well-known source for product visualisation is design software that contains detailed information about the product structure. Analysis and simulation data is another good and highly detailed source; the data can act as the base of a visualisation or as an add-on due to the fact that the data itself can be visualised. The actual physical product and its operational environment is also an excellent information source when it is correctly captured with the right equipment and expertise via laser scanning and photogrammetry. 3D models can also be created by using technical drawings and product images as a base.

All of these sources can be used individually or in combinations to create an impressive digital 3D environment, which reflects the product in the form of a highly accurate digital twin. This environment can be easily manipulated to set up and render high quality product images. It also creates a platform to add animations, visual and sound effects, infographics and functionality to the product.

The different product communication possibilities allow the creation of any kind of visual story in the form of images, animations and interactive content. Products can even be presented in the application environment with the actual scale, functionality and monitoring data. These visual and easily digested product communication methods can be used for any needs and target groups, throughout the product’s lifecycle; from designing and manufacturing, to marketing and sales, all the way to usage and maintenance training.

Summary

In the age of information overload, the role of visual communication is coming strongly to the fore. Technological advances allow a myriad of possibilities to communicate information throughout a product life cycle. Professionally crafted visual communication content not only improves communication, but also decreases the load on the message receiver.

The original text has published in our 1/2019 Top Engineer magazine

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Jani Moisala

B.Sc (Tech.), Information Technology Media Engineering - Jani Moisala joined Elomatic in 2018 as a Head of Visualisation Services. He graduated from the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences in 2007 after working in the energy sector as an ICT Expert. He has held the positions of Team Manager, Quality and Development Manager and Business Development Director. He is particularly interested in visualisation and X Reality and how these technologies are transforming information use and affecting business and society.

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