Working Visually: Visualizing for All

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Across cultures, languages and levels of education, visual communication offers a universal language with a powerful capacity to unite. This is central to Throughline’s philosophy, but it isn’t new; images have been conveying messages in inclusive ways throughout history. In particular, the history of muralism in Latin America illustrates how dynamic, accessible visuals can humanize complex information, raise awareness and inspire connections among people.

So, what can Latin American muralism teach us about visualizing for all?

Visualization transcends boundaries.

The broader the intended audience for a message, the more difficult it can be to craft something accessible to all. At Throughline, we believe visuals create a common language that can break down barriers and maximize a message’s impact. This core principle can be leveraged broadly, whether pitching technically complex ideas to stakeholders who do not share subject matter expertise or creating a public mural in a multilingual community.

Muralism in Latin America traces its lineage to this principle, most notably through Mexico’s influential movimento muralista (muralist movement). Following the Mexican Revolution in 1920, the Mexican government sought to revitalize national pride and unity among broad swathes of society—including those who were illiterate. Recognizing the potential of visual communication to transcend barriers to understanding, the government commissioned artists to paint murals in public spaces, such as federal buildings and schools.

This tradition persists both at Throughline and in the communities surrounding our headquarters in Washington, D.C. Notably, local muralist Luis Del Valle has painted murals in 14 different D.C. schools; he describes murals as educational tools that convey information in ways that children can understand.

Pictures speak louder.

The success of the Mexican muralism movement clearly demonstrates the notion that nothing transforms complex information into a story quite like a picture. This is one of Throughline's founding principles; we leverage visualization as a tool to cut through the noise. While stacks of white papers can overwhelm and convoluted processes can cause misunderstandings, visual strategy maps can establish a shared mission and generate solidarity. Like a loose block in a game of Jenga, a single miscommunication can lead the entire structure to collapse. It is when everyone, from the C-suite down, can see themselves aligned to the same story that magic happens.

Take the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District, who partnered with Throughline to visually rebrand Washington, D.C.’s quirky and diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood (our headquarter's since inception). To capture the neighborhood identity and entice more visitors, Throughline developed a series of eclectic, colorful, large-scale banners. The new visual identity embraced the neighborhood’s culture and unique personality to tell the story of a welcoming, vibrant community—accompanied by memorable taglines.

Imagery is the language of the people.

From art galleries to the halls of power, things like cost and physical location have often hindered everyday people from accessing art or information. With muralism, accessibility is the point. By bringing visualization to the public sphere, the imagery and its message integrate into the landscape of everyday life.

From this, we can extrapolate how the integration of visuals into work processes can foster transparency and connectedness among an organization’s people. Consider the impact of an eye-catching poster in a break room or a strategic map in an office. Strategically designed imagery can translate epic stories, company visions and core values into a universally recognized language.

In his school murals, Luis Del Valle describes how the art is meant to show the students representations of themselves, “reflecting them and the community around them.” When the viewer is part of the visual story, there is trust, and where there is trust, there is buy-in. By placing visual communication directly in front of its intended audience, you reinforce that its message is meant for everyone.

If you are interested in learning more about how visuals can create a common language to break down barriers and maximize a message’s impact please reach out to me and visit Throughline to read about past clients we have helped in the private and public sector.

Until next time,

Rebecca Williams

Chief Creative Officer