Visual content is everything on the Internet today. A whopping 91 percent of audiences today seek out visual content as their primary, secondary, and even tertiary means of learning about a brand or service. The drive to communicate with audiences visually has even spawned the visual generation–a broad consumer group that both creates and consumes visual content as a means of communication, education, and community building.
As visual content has risen in popularity, our behaviors around that content have greatly evolved. In fact, in 2004 roughly 65 percent of people were considered visual learners. Today, following nearly two decades of visual proliferation, that number has skyrocketed to 86 percent of people. The human brain is, after all, hardwired to process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, ensuring that our preference for visual communication has always been engrained in us. As that innate demand meets a world of nearly endless design possibility, it makes sense that our reliance on visual information would evolve as well.
Visual content isn’t just a marketing or sales tool for engaging and educating external audiences, it’s a means of communicating within professional organizations, in the classroom, and throughout our personal lives as well. This has led employers to expect some level of visual literacy among their employee base, assuming that almost anyone within the business should be able to develop great visuals from day one. From slide decks to data visualizations and everything in between, today’s workers must flex their design skills, even if design isn’t in their job title.
Zach Kitschke, CMO of Canva, knows this problem all too well. In fact, he argues that in today’s visual economy, companies should offer design literacy training as a part of onboarding, thus redistributing the onus of training and education away from employees and directly onto the employer. While it’s natural for a company like Canva to prioritize this, it’s an opportunity that every organization should embrace.
Consider, for example, the remote constraints of today’s new normal. The majority of knowledge workers are now remote or hybrid, which means visuals are more important than ever to communicate information. In fact, visuals have never been a more powerful tool. From winning new business and new hires to keeping current employees and clients engaged, the way that businesses present their brand both internally and externally matters, so much so that design-forward businesses generate two times the returns of their peers. Clearly, design literacy will become an increasingly vital skill for job seekers and employees alike, even if they aren’t in a design-focused role.
What can companies do?
Kitschke recommends implementing an official “Design School” for all new hires. One of the first things taught to all new hires at Canva, for example, is a framework for creating slides with a narrative versus information mindset. This sets employees up for success when tackling their first presentation, among other things.
This program has been so popular within the organization that Canva created a more robust and publicly available Design School for anyone wishing to grow their skills. While this program focuses primarily on ways to implement great design within Canva, there are plenty of courses on design theory that can be applied across any graphic design solution.
Upfront design training should take advantage of what’s already available, but internal brand training should never be skipped. Even just a few hours of training can provide new hires with an opportunity to learn about their organization’s brand guidelines, aesthetic, and tone. This aids in protecting the brand over the long run rather than expecting more seasoned employees to police all content.
Beyond initial training programs, organizations hoping to thrive in today’s visual world should invest in continually upskilling their team. This often comes in the form of LinkedIn Learning courses, attending design conferences from CreativePro or Adobe, or on-site training with experts in design literacy. Learning shouldn’t stop after week one on the job–there’s ongoing initiatives you can employ from sending out weekly “Design Tip” emails to scheduling monthly office hours with design pros.
There’s no getting around it…
Design literacy is a lynchpin for success in the modern workplace. Companies that embrace this new normal have a greater likelihood of success. On the other hand, companies still relying on PowerPoint layout suggestions as the only means to empower design savvy among their employee base are letting a golden opportunity slip by.