It’s been almost a month and I haven’t been able to get that picture of the president throwing paper towels in Puerto Rico out of my head.

This week’s election didn’t do it; neither did Amazon’s new headquarters competition, or for that matter, the Harvey Weinstein story.

Images are simply more memorable than words. It’s a phenomenon called “picture superiority effect.” People are hardwired to respond to imagery: The visual cortex is the largest system in the human brain. In fact, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. While reading is a skill we must learn, picture processing is an ability we’re all born with, and the language of pictures is universal.

Take a look at these photos. Chances are you will not only recognize them but also feel the same wave of emotion that you felt when you first saw them. They may trigger specific memories buried in the recesses of your brain.



In spite of the power of pictures, many organizations spend much more time on the text, carefully considering the nuances of every word on a website or brochure before flipping through stock photos to choose a serviceable image. Sharing words without images is a missed opportunity.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Choose similar colors not bold contrasts. People find them more harmonious and remember them better.
  • Use pictures of people. Research tells us that pictures of people are more memorable than landscapes or objects. People displaying strong emotions are more memorable than people who aren’t.
  • If you can’t use people, use a human scale space. Wide-open landscapes are the least memorable.
  • Your pictures don’t have to be beautiful. Pleasant to look at and memorable are not the same thing according to researchers at MIT.