The power of beauty in communicating complex ideas

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When creating visuals to explain complex ideas, cutting edge innovations or new scientific research we often focus on the images’ ability to carry information. But data visualization, infographics or even schematics have a hidden power we rarely discuss: beauty.

Obviously not all images are beautiful. As designer Alberto Cairo writes “Beauty is not a thing, or a property of objects, but a measure of the emotional experience of awe, wonder, pleasure, or mere surprise that those objects may unleash.” Beauty is an experience.

So can we defend pursuing beauty when communicating science or innovation?

Curiosity is the greatest source of motivation. It is usually triggered by creating an information deficit or by promising to teach the audience something new. In both cases the audience expects an answer, at best to learn something interesting, and at least to have their curiosity satisfied.

But beauty triggers curiosity differently. It draws us in the content not with a promise of knowledge but with a promise of visual satisfaction. We feel touched by the work before getting to the knowledge. Beauty makes it easier for us to look deeper, to wander around the content, to gather knowledge while already being satisfied. Beauty makes the learning process pleasant for our brains.

Accurat, the italian design agency specialized in data visualization, pursues beauty as one of its main design principles:

“Beauty is not a frill. We know how to engage and motivate people to dig deeper and take time to explore the intricacies of a visual data analysis. We deploy our rigorous methods to achieve the ideal balance between familiar visual motifs and unexpected aesthetics, a powerful combination that leverages studies on perception to trigger curiosity and interest, and creates indelible images in the minds of users.”

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