If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times: "A picture is worth a thousand words." Recent research suggests that visual elements can increase engagement by more than 80%, which makes sense, as we we live in a fast-paced world where we’re constantly bombarded by information. If you want to get your message across, you need to keep up with the times and make sure your content is engaging and easy to read.

That’s where visual thinking comes in. 

What is visual thinking?

Visual thinking is a process of understanding, organizing and communicating complex problems using words, images and concepts to convey meaning, illustrate relationships and simplify complex information. One perception and memory study reveals that we remember only 10% of oral information after three days, but can retain up to 65% of the information if it includes a visual element.

The human mind can easily process visual information that it struggles with when presented as text or numbers. Visualization allows us to rapidly sort through complex data sets and decide what’s important. This ordered visual representation lets us see patterns we couldn’t otherwise detect, leading to new insights into how things work or could work better.

Related: Visualization Is Essential for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Why add visual thinking to your brand-building toolkit?

It’s not just about making things prettier; visual thinking can help you communicate your ideas more efficiently, create more effective content and get better results from your marketing efforts. It’ll also help you engage your audience in a fun way, break through the noise with striking visuals that capture your audience’s attention and make sure they remember you. It also helps you be more productive during meetings, events or brainstorms by giving people an easy-to-follow visual map of what was discussed.

Related: 5 Psychology-Backed Hacks That Train Your Brain to Be More Innovative

How visual thinking can help you innovate your business

Visual thinking is a powerful tool to help you and your colleagues innovate. It can be used in many ways, such as:

  • Brainstorming ideas. Visual thinking turns the brainstorming process into a collaborative one. When people can see each other’s ideas, they’re more likely to build off of them than they  if they were sitting across from each other at a table with nothing but conversation to work with. 
  • Defining your business model. Business models are easy to talk about but hard to visualize, and that’s a problem, because the process of seeing your business model is essential to figuring out how to improve it. Visual thinking is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of your business — to see the big picture and then zoom in on the details that need work. It also helps you simplify complicated concepts and makes them easier to understand. 
  • Mapping user journeys and flows, as well as processes and systems. Before building a product or service, you need to know who you’re building it for. User journey-mapping is an important part of your brand’s innovation process. Understand how your users move through your product or service to meet their goals. A journey map is an excellent way to identify gaps in your product and how you can improve the customer experience. They can also be used to present new ideas, like adding a feature or functionality to your brand.
  • Mapping, developing and communicating prototypes. Product managers are often described as the "CEO of the product." They decide what features or products to build and when, and then they help the team build them out or up. At their best, product managers have a strong sense of the problem they’re trying to solve and of their market. This is often called product vision. But getting from a vision to product reality can be a challenge, especially in large companies with a lot at stake. Visual thinking tools can help with this task. It’ll aid your team to think through and map out what they’re building and why (or not). It will also allow you to test your ideas with customers before you begin building anything. In this way, visual thinking helps prevent you from wasting time on products that won’t work.

Innovative design is more than just "what" you do; it’s a way of thinking. To innovate your brand, start thinking visually. By working outside to inside, looking deeper and starting with the end in mind, you can identify opportunities for innovation that weren’t even visible before. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a startup or an established company — developing a visual-thinking strategy could be what you need to stay ahead in today’s fast-moving world.

Related: 4 Visualization Techniques That Can Propel Your Success