Tip 8: Picture It

Graphics can be highly effective for increasing the reader’s interest in and comprehension of alternatives and key issues, while also reducing page count.

The human brain’s capacity for visual processing, memory, and learning is much greater than that for reading or listening.

  1. Plan the document with a ratio of figures-to-text in mind to help balance document readability and focus. This is especially important for highly streamlined documents.
  2. Make the graphics first, and then build text from the graphics, rather than the reverse. This technique highlights essential points and keeps unnecessary text to a minimum. Whenever possible, communicate important points visually with high-quality pictures, figures, and maps as well as concise tables. Even dynamic content, such as story maps, can be incredibly effective.
  3. Do not repeat graphic information in narrative form. Highlight only critical information. Graphics are intended to replace narrative in a format that is easier to comprehend.
  4. Use graphics to illustrate big picture concepts (e.g., regional setting, components of the affected environment), and use text to focus on specific points.
  5. Use a set of graphics that build upon each other and weave a visual narrative throughout the document.
  6. Create and distribute a graphic production standard to ensure an expected quality and feeling to graphics in your document.
  7. Test print graphics at publication scale to ensure the graphic and any associated text is clear.

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