Art and Text

Are Pictures Worth a Thousand Words?

Maybe you have made this experience before: You have looked at a picture, and a whole universe of meaning, ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions opened up right before your eyes. It might have been a piece of art in a museum, a photograph in a magazine, graffiti on a wall, or just a reflection in your rear view mirror. Some pictures are worth a thousand words.

In marketing though, combinations of images and text are ideal for conveying a message to the target group. Images will have certain effects, such as creating attention or expressing uniqueness, but images alone in most cases are not able to transfer the whole message and the product positioning.

What Comes First: Image or Text?

Many times, we have been asked what comes first, the image or the text. The answer is: It depends. It really does. Sometimes you start with a great picture, something that expresses just the right emotion, and you create everything else around this picture. You play with the language, choose just the right words, write, rewrite, the text just flows with the emotions expressed by that picture. Images can make great concepts, visual concepts that translate into verbal concepts, too.

Sometimes, it is just the other way round. You start with an idea and write it down. You have great ideas for verbal messages. You come up with a slogan that says it all. You develop a text around it. You achieve a result that reads well and ideally serves its function. And then your text needs to be visualized. You look for images that match your words and ideas. You choose pictures that enhance your written thoughts.

In our daily work, we do it all. We write texts for selected images and image concepts; we write Web content or other texts to which our clients add stock photos or custom pictures; or we write texts and enhance those with our own graphic art. It definitely depends on the type of marketing material that we are writing for.

Different Media, Different Approaches

Corporate brochures, for example, depend very much on a good image concept, in our experience. So when we write a corporate brochure, we create an image concept first. Then we develop the content and write the text. That does not mean that we have to have all the final pictures before we can start writing, but at least a very good idea of the pictures. In advertising, the picture usually comes first, too. Of course, the main objectives and messages of the ad have been defined first. But then we usually receive an image and write a headline and copy text exactly for this image.

For other marketing media, such as Web content, interviews or background articles, the text is usually dominant and comes first. Pictures are added in a second step to illustrate the content. These can be stock pictures, custom-made photography or tailor-made graphic art. Presentations are usually content-driven, too, although the visual aspects are obviously of major importance. But we still start with the textual content and then take care of a professional visualization.

Our answer to the question about what comes first reflects our personal preferences and our way of working, not general guidelines. This is just our approach. But we do think that a great combination of images and text really makes the difference. Amazing pictures still need well written texts. And fantastic texts can be even more convincing with the perfect pictures. It is those ideal combinations of images and text that we seek with our work.