A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

My world is full of visuals. I can’t imagine life without art, and I can’t imagine a training without images. Whether I am designing a meeting, learning session, knowledge sharing event, strategic planning day or retreat, I include photos, drawings, art and other visuals.

When images are carefully and intentionally used, they can be helpful in many ways. Here are some reasons for my use of images:

  • Synthesize complex ideas.
  • Mirror the written text.
  • Invite personal meaning-making.
  • Offer a break from the words on the page.
  • Engage a different part of the brain.


There are many ways to use images to deepen learning. Here are a few I have found helpful:

On the cover

In a learning-task to communicate what the task is about

As a visual queue to communicate a repeated type of activity


There are also many creative ways to use visuals during an event and offered by the trainer. Here are a few ideas for inviting individuals to use them:

Select a photo

Draw a picture

Use an image to communicate

  • For example: PowerPoint images, flip chart, artwork, brochure, and so much more.


Here are some tips to help you as you work to more intentionally use images:

Be consistent. A learning design looks more polished and professional when you use a single type of visual i.e. only photos, or only artwork. If you have a workshop you plan to use repeatedly, it is often best to let a graphic designer create them for you.

Use images that are simple and clear. Avoid using images that are blurry, too far away to be helpful, cropped in such a way that the meaning is compromised, or too busy. Less is more.

Ensure your images are free to use. It’s never fun to get a penalty for breaking copyright rules!

Place them where they make sense. Remember, visuals are not decoration and need to be used intentionally.

Use layout that has the words wrap around the image. Doing this will minimize the space your images take on the page.

Determine the best size. This will depend on the space available and how much blank space you want on the page. Visuals are meant to be purposeful. Whether you use them to deepen learning, invite dialogue, support thinking, hook curiosity, or stimulate thinking, select your visuals carefully.

How do you use visuals to deepen learning?


Jeanette Romkema is the Strategic Director and Senior Consultant for Global Learning Partners. She is also adjunct professor at Wycliffe of the University of Toronto.