Sometimes words fail, a photograph doesn't show enough and a video shows too much. The happy medium can be found in an interactive illustration.
No other visual tool gives you as much absolute control over an image. You literally can create the image you want, in the style you need.
Illustrations can offer visual explanations, but they also can act like mini-websites, with "data" packaged in an arresting, accessible visual manner.
Illustrator PingHua Chou offers a great example with an engaging illustration of six "bad drinks." Animals slither, a helicopter hovers and a cloud drops rain in various drinks called Snake-Teo Beer, Iceberg Whisky and Monday Flood. There is sound that adds to the fun.
Clever, you say, but how would I use that in a serious situation? Good question, simple answer.
Let's say you have a complex project with multiple elements spread over a large area. An illustration would allow you to show the entire project with enough, but not too much context. The major features of the project could be interactive, allowing viewers to hover over or click them to pull up details. There also could be a link to get a more in-depth look at that project element.
This interactive illustration was designed by Kryzma Design Studios for Bridge Renewable Energy to show the critical elements of a utility grade biomass power plant. It gives viewers a chance to see the overall scope of the project, while drilling down on different aspects such as how the plant works, what sources of biomass it will use and how it can contribute to a more sustainable environment. It is a message in a picture puzzle.
People, including professional PR people, look past illustrations because they don't have illustrators on the payroll. Do-it-yourself illustration, while not impossible, usually puts people far outside their comfort level.
That's too bad because many designers are clear, logical thinkers who can tell a complicated story in a simple picture. Unlike a great photograph or video, the picture can have depth, with clickable secret doors that expose viewers to more information, while not losing contact with the big picture.
A complex illustration also may require the additional skills of an animator and web developer to pull off, but the final result could be worth the effort.
If you find yourself struggling to show what you mean, consider an interactive illustration. A good illustrator can set the right tone, focus on the critical issues and tell your story in a way no other visual medium can accomplish.