This week I took part in an invigorating discussion about the over-use of capital letters in various official forms of writing. We, the communications professionals gathered in our on-line room, agreed that care and attention to the basic rules of grammar and the correct use of written English is important. We debated ways in which others can be persuaded to the rightness of our cause. It was, in short, the sort of thing that we PR types like to get hot under the collar about.
While the discussion unfolded, the RSS feed from the change.gov blog popped this picture into Google Reader for me. It is the first official portrait of President Barack Obama and it is stunning. That’s not a great surprise, if any country can afford a decent photographer it’s the USA. It did serve to remind me that we comms types, especially the ones with a journalism or PR background don’t tend to get so hot under the collar about the use of images within our corporations.
This is a pity, and something we need to address because the 21st century really will be the age of the image. We use spoken and written language as the primary means to communicate but images are becoming ever more important. A quick scan down my Facebook friends shows a wide range of images appearing in profiles communicating much, much more than “this is what I look like”. There are party animals, shy-retiring types, mountain lovers and people who love big mugs of tea. Within theses images are unselfconscious references to great works of art, contemporary movies, music videos and iconic symbols from our visual history. Each of these thumbnail images packs in a sense of who these people are, what their lives are like and how they feel about the world. And this information is readily understandable and accessible without a single letter (capital or not).
We are only on the cusp of this new world. Kids these days must have more images taken of them in their first three months of life than I have had in my 37 years. They are growing up in a saturated by imagery in which language is a slow and laborious way to communicate most things. This is not to say that written language is unimportant. More to remind us all that images are just as, if not more, important.
If I may ;-)
Image is President Barack Obama by Pete Souza from change.gov and is issued under cc-a-3.0