The language of visual learning

Injecting a human element into the virtual environment allows us to break through the technological layers. 

We’re currently in the middle of Inktober, a month-long challenge where artists post one ink-drawn work for each day of October according to a series of prompts. 

Jake Parker created Inktober in 2009 and the creative online event has got bigger every year, Instagram being the perfect place for a global community of artists to show off their creations and give each other feedback and encouragement. 

As we find ourselves immersed in the new normal, it’s always useful to refer to happenings that existed pre-Covid. And in a time of upheaval and change, it’s really important to consider the opportunities that disruption brings. Building large, inter-connected communities and extending reach are definitely advantages of the virtual event format. Of course, the challenge is how we can achieve a custom experience that stands out against the crowded, content-filled world, as so many elements of our lives have transitioned online.

Injecting a human element into the virtual environment allows us to break through the technological layers. So, how can we trigger emotion and create a digital experience for delegates filled with colour and wonder, that is original and memorable? What is it about Inktober that draws such a crowd and has sustained a decade of engagement? There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple. 

Digital scribing is a refreshing alternative to the whizzy world of visual effects. An illustrator joins the event and draws in real time, adding an extra dimension to verbal content. Hand drawn illustrations brilliantly capture key points and can be woven into a wide range of agendas, producing authentic content that is social-media friendly and speaks a universal language. The scenes can also act as a reference point and a change of scenery, that participants are invited to view and engage with during breaks or at key points during the event. So, what makes these visual summaries so special and why do they resonate so strongly?

Well wherever we are in the world, we can connect to art. A picture is uniquely positioned to tell a story without words, to move and inspire people. Images create an atmosphere that people want to be a part of and a personality for a virtual event. Strong visuals have the power to grab our attention like a Venus fly-trap, educating us about almost anything and presenting information in a way that can be absorbed easily and anchoring key messages in the memory for longer. 

There’s actually also some interesting science behind the phrase, a picture is worth a thousand words’. To begin with, 65% of us are visual learners. The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Eyes can process 36,000 visual messages per hour. The sense of a visual scene can be felt in less than 1/10 of a second and triggers a stronger reaction.

If we look back through history and the origins of human language, linguists have questioned whether the emergence of cave art instigated a new way of thinking which, in turn, set the stage for human language to develop. In the same way that homo sapiens engraved the walls of the physical world, today’s illustrators adorn the walls of the digital. 

But perhaps, there’s just something mesmerising about watching the act of drawing itself, as a talented artist, in real time, puts pen to iPad and creates an original picture, with a visual language for today’s world. Playful, original and simple. Digital inking is a way to connect us and appeal to us as humans and certainly shouldn’t be solely reserved for October.