by Kevin Sims
WE humans are visual animals. In our early years we look at picture books before we can read and, even as an adult, a good cartoon or illustration is often the first thing I look at when I pick up a newspaper. The famous Chinese saying about a picture being worth a thousand words often holds true, and we take in far more through our eyes than we are consciously aware of.
Advertisers place great importance on getting the look of an advert just right. They wouldn’t put so much effort in if it didn’t make a difference – in the world of advertising, money talks and a visually interesting poster or TV advert can increase awareness and sales.
For some reason, the impact of good pictures or photos seems to be ignored by much of the Church. The message is the vital part, no doubt, but the way that message is put across can be the difference between (everlasting) life and death!
As the editor of a magazine, the look of an article and the impact of a photo or illustration are vital ingredients in trying to engage the reader. No matter how long it takes to put a complicated, well-researched article together, the thing I’m most likely to be told is: ‘That was a lovely/moving/interesting photo.’ A piece of writing, no matter how fascinating, will never have the instant impact of a good picture.
That’s not to play down the importance of the written word, of course, but when it comes to grabbing attention, pictures win every time. Of course, there’s more to it than that. In a magazine the artwork is used to make the reader take an interest in an article. Front-page images are meant to make you want to pick up a book and read it, not just stand and admire the picture!
Two articles in this issue of All the World show people having an awareness of the importance of visual impact. The piece about the UK schools team’s new resource makes mention of wanting to get the look right so children can relate to what they are being told. And in Tanzania, a bleak wall has been transformed into a ‘Bible for the people’ through eye-catching paintings.
Both stories caught my imagination because they show people who had a vision they acted on which demonstrated an ability to look beyond what’s ‘good enough’ or simply ‘useful’. Instead, they have tried to present their most important message in a way that will attract and interest people.
It would be easy to see such attention to detail as unnecessary or even a waste of money. I see it as trying to show people that The Salvation Army – and the wider Christian Church – has a relevant and attractive message which it is presenting in a way that will have the strongest possible impact on people’s lives.