How to Use Graphic Images

Posted on: November 4, 2009

Use graphic images to communicate, not decorate. For example, you might use graphic images to show development over time, or to illustrate the parts of a mechanical device, or to convey some type of abstract change, such as a software release process.

Whether an image will be used online or in a printed document, a general rule of thumb is to “keep it simple.” Keep the number of parts in the image to a minimum, and avoid fine lines and reams of tiny text. If an image becomes too complex, subdivide it into several simpler images.

Keep images consistent in appearance by using a color theme, similar frames, and so on. Be wary of  “special effects” or other unusual or distorted perspectives. Remember, the objective is to communicate with your audience.

A picture is not worth a thousand words. Most people learn and process information more quickly and easily when both words and images are used to present the material. Use graphic images to enhance and expand on one or more points in body text, or to convey something that is difficult to explain in words alone.

Remember to use captions for each image, so your audience clearly understands what the image represents. If appropriate, use labels to call out the parts of the image. If an image needs a very brief description to tie it to its associated body text or clarify its context, use inset comments between the caption and the image, or just below the image.

In some documents, images are essential. In others, words suffice to tell the entire story to your audience. How to use images, or indeed, whether to use them at all is part of planning, which is the first phase of writing a document. Elizabeth Lexleigh    The Write Ideas


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