How Our Favorite Thought Leaders Innovate Using Visual Communication

How pros and innovators boost workplace productivity.

Zight | May 09, 2017 | 7 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 22, 2023

How Our Favorite Thought Leaders Innovate Using Visual Communication

The latest data is in and it’s clear. Visual communication is here to stay.

  • 4X as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it
  • Infographics are liked and shared on social media 3X more than other any other type of content
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations
  • Global internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all internet traffic by 2019

But you don’t have to believe us or the stats. You can take it from the pros and innovators who use visual communication every day to boost workplace productivity, wow customers, and stay ahead of the game.

From business behemoths like Jobs and Branson to the authors, academics and entrepreneurs on the frontline, here’s how our favorite thought leaders use visuals to do business better.

Save the Day with a Visual Aid

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

— Steve Jobs, Former Co-founder, Chairman & CEO, Apple Inc.

Image Source:Jon Snyder,

You can’t talk about visual leadership without talking about Steve Jobs. According to the folks over at SmartDraw, Jobs’s knack for visual communication wasn’t limited to keynote speeches. In a strategy meeting at Apple in 1997, Jobs condensed his bold proposal to redirect the company into a simple four quadrant grid. The visual aid was so effective, it won over the board, and saved the company from bankruptcy. When we say visual communication is crucial, we’re not exaggerating.

Go the Extra Mile with Visual Communication

““I wanted to fundamentally feel like I was the best person in the world to solve that problem.”

— Tristan Walker, Creator of the Bevel Shave System & CEO, Walker Company and Brands

Image Source:Tristan Walker

Take it from a guy whose entire business was born from design thinking. Walker’s men’s grooming company, Bevel uses visuals in marketing, strategy and customer support to put the brand a cut above the competition . From a gorgeously curated Instagram to using video chat in their support strategy, the high design brand uses powerful images, videos and GIFs to build a deeper connection with customers.

Build Brand Unity with Visual Messaging

“The marketing departments of many companies assume that once they’ve put out the press release or run the ad, the entire world understands the message. It’s unlikely that even the company does. Start with your board of directors and work down to Trixie and Biff at the front desk and make sure every employee understands the branding.”

— Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist of Canva

Image Source:Guy Kawasaki

When growing your brand, you need to make sure everyone’s 110% committed to the mission (yes, even you, Biff). Kawasaki recommends cascading your message throughout the organization to until every team in every department knows the brand story well enough to retell it themselves. Use photos, GIFs and videos of your customers, teams and product to make that story a page-turner.

Create a Visual Experience to Futureproof Your Product

“What we see is often what we believe. Actions speak louder than words. In some ways, we are witnessing those old adages come to life on the Web, as there has been a movement toward highly-visual mediums, versus traditional words-on-paper (or on screen) that used to be our main means of exchanging information.”

— Lori Kozlowski, Writer, Editor and digital storytelling pro

Image Source:Lori Kozlowski

As the former Senior Digital Editor at the LA Times, Lori Kozlowski’s a digital guru with a track record for knowing what’s next. In her fantastic 2013 Forbes article, Future Of Content: Visual Culture And The Ephemeral, she explored the increasingly important role of visuals today and tomorrow. There’s a reason why GIFY, Instagram, and even newer apps like and Houseparty, are raking in the paper. Design your product to please the visual thinker in all of us and it’ll be a success for years to come.

Stay On Task (Even When You Just Don’t Feel Like It) with Visual Team-Building

“When I was going through a tough personal crisis, I realized I could bring more empathy to others at work. These aren’t big things, and they don’t solve the problems of the world, but they’re things I know I *can* do, and a small step forward is better than no step at all.”

— Julie Zhou, VP Product for facebook

Image Source:Julie Zhou

In her incredible collection of essays, Into the Looking Glass, facebook linchpin Julie Zhou shares her heart, thoughts and experiences on business and life. We love her advice for using empathy to connect with team members and stay productive even when you’re feeling low. And what better way to share a laugh (or a laughing-through-tears smiley face) than with a homemade GIF or emoticon?

(Pssst, we’re big on using visual communication to boost team morale, for more great tips on that click here.)

Add Passion to Your Pitch with Visuals

“In the end it is about knowing your material deeply and designing visuals that augment and amplify your spoken message.”

— Garr Reynolds, Author of Presentation Zen

Image Source:Garr Reynolds

Here’s the thing: Presentations that make an impact, make money. Clients and investors are totally numb to text and jargon heavy slides. Wake them up with a stellar presentation that uses visuals as a stunning backdrop — not a crutch. Take it from Reynolds, a professor/communications star and long time student of the Zen arts who attempted to eliminate death by PowerPoint by advocating a focus on restraint, simplicity and naturalness.

(Need more inspiration for your next presentation? Check out how speaking coach, Andrew Dlugan quickly transforms boring bullets into inspiring visuals.)

Boost Your Bottom Line through Visual Marketing

“Visual content attracts attention that translates to achieving your business objectives. Use an array of images to show off your product, employees and business.”

— Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide

Image Source:Heidi Cohen

We see it all the time as consumers. The stuff we share online almost always includes videos and images. For marketing teams, the growing emphasis on visuals presents a major challenge. You need to publish a ton of eye-catching content, and quickly. Start integrating visuals from the beginning of your content creation workflow to maximize inspiration and make the process way more fun.

Use Visual Aids to Spur Growth and Innovation

“It’s no coincidence that the word “visionary” denotes having the ability to see well and possessing a gift of creativity. Gathering the visual aids to accompany your innovation initiative both stimulates and sustains creative energy.”

— Jeff DeGraff, Author, Making Stone Soup: How to Jumpstart Innovation Teams

Image Source: Jeff DeGraff

Known as the Dean of Innovation (wicked cool title!), Jeff DeGraff has worked with companies like American Airlines, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, General Electric, Prudential and Pfizer. In his recent Inc article, Picture This: Using Visual Aids to Inspire Creativity, he outlines a three step process for using visuals to spur creativity. We like the first step best. It’s called ‘Artifacts of Thought’. Forget the cloying advice to “picture yourself in ten years,” DeGraff gives turns traditional visualization on its head by asking you to image the future as something that’s already happened.

Make it Stick with Visuals

“Visuals are not just memorable – they help people collaborate better by making ideas concrete. Smart use of visuals is often the best way to help a group cut into the issues and start making progress.”

— Lisa Kay Solomon, Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Author, Professor of Innovation, Strategist to the Fortune 1000


Explaining a new change or idea to a team of busy growth hackers is no simple task. Cut meeting time in half with powerful visuals that get right to the point. We recommend before and after images, annotated screenshots or a quick video to show everyone what you mean and make it super easy to give a quick thumb’s up (using an emoticon, of course).

Have More Fun (and Be More Productive) with Visuals in the Workplace

“Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

— Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Image Source:Richard Branson

Branson’s a business magnate with a serious commitment to fun. In his book, fun equals productivity, so much so that he himself gets in on the shenanigans. (Is there a better way to get caught snoozing? We don’t think so.) So go ahead and paint a mustache right onto that photo of your admin sleeping on the job. Bonus points if you use Annotate!

How do you use visuals in your day to day? Which one of these approaches is your fave? Let us know in the comments!

Ready to chat with us about how to save time, money and help your team communicate better?