Visual Storytelling

A Comprehensive Guide

Visual storytelling is a very powerful way to communicate your message. It's also the most immersive and engaging form of narrative, connecting you with viewers on an emotional level. Visuals inspire and allows you to interpret what words cannot convey through text alone. In this guide, I will walk you through the process of crafting an effective visual narrative, explore what it is and how to do it.

What is Visual Storytelling

 

Visual storytelling is the art of telling stories through images, videos, and other visual media to engage with viewers in an effort to drive emotions, inform and inspire action. Visual messages are effective because people are mostly visual learners who seem to thrive from visually stimulating experiences. The human brain processes visual content at an incredibly high speed and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

 

This is why visual storytelling can be so powerful, but it's also hard to do correctly. It can be used for many purposes including advertising, marketing, or just as a creative outlet. The possibilities are endless!

Choosing the Right Visual Medium to Tell your Story


Visual storytelling is an extremely important component of telling a story. Whether you're creating a short story or long-form content, the way in which we tell our stories can speak volumes, and capturing that truly allows people to connect with it even more than reading about something might allow them to do so.


The story you want to tell will dictate the type of visual content that best suits your message. For example, if you have live footage supporting a narrative about real people, then using a live-action video would be best. However, if you are telling the story behind developing technology or software and need abstract representations, then animation or motion graphics would be perfect for this situation.

The Elements of a Visual Narrative


What are some of the elements you should keep in mind when telling a visual story? A compelling narrative or point of view, an engaging setting and tone, and the right amount of detail to engage your audience. Story is an important element of visual narratives because it helps to give a sense of meaning and organization. Without a story, the visuals can't provide context for what they are showing you. Those principles go hand-in-hand with visual storytelling.


Show, don't tell

Think of your viewers as active participants in the story, they are going to fill in many blanks for themselves and construct their own meanings based on what you have shown them (or not). The key is making sure that your visuals are concise and give enough information to convey the idea you are trying to get across.


Conflict

Storytellers know that if audiences aren't interested in a story there is no conflict. Conflict spurs interest, so when we are talking about brand storytelling customers won’t be interested in your story unless it relates to the problem they struggle with most often.


Context

Make sure that you are providing enough context in your visual story to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation, so people can understand what's happening as they follow along with it. This creates higher engagement as people create personal connections with artworks, videos, and visual messages.


Show People

Businesses shouldn't tell the story of their brand, but rather that of the people behind it. If you want to stand out from the crowd, be yourself. No one can share your unique story because it's not their story--it's yours! The best way to do this is by sharing everyday stories about your employees and customers via social media. This makes you more approachable as a business, making yourself seem like an actual person instead of just another corporation trying to sell products or services. We see many celebrities use social media in this exact manner; they want us to view them as real people with emotions too!


Do you want to know how to use visuals to deliver your message more effectively and creatively? Use the following tips: 

  • Create tension by using editorial design. Make an emotional connection with readers/viewers through sound, video, graphics, etc... 
  • Don't shy away from mixing multiple mediums for a creative effect. Be entertaining! Limit information about complex subjects so that it is easier on memory recall
  • Infographics are great for illustrating difficult concepts in bite-size pieces of content
  • And make sure there's always one clear call to action or desired outcome at all times.


However, crafting a successful visual narrative is no easy task and it takes some practice, creativity, and imagination to put together the right visual elements for your story. Also, it's very rewarding when you're able to tell an engaging and meaningful story through visual mediums.


Storytelling needs to be thought-provoking, innovative, and beautifully designed in order for it to succeed with the intended audience. Visuals need an inspirational artful design that can captivate viewers on all levels: their intellect, emotions, and senses through creative technology such as animations or sound effects.

Designing a Visual Narrative


Contrasting Visual Elements


Contrast is an important principle in any form of visual art because it guides the viewer’s attention to the key elements. It is essential for maintaining the distinction between similar elements, this makes a layout more readable. Contrast is formed when design elements are placed in opposition, for example:


  • Dark vs light;
  • Thick vs thin;
  • Cool/warm colors;
  • Smooth/rough textures;
  • Contemporary vs traditional;
  • Large vs small.


The importance of color and space in Visual Storytelling


Choosing the color for your design can help define its tone. There are many colors to choose from and you could use them with a variety of combinations like background vs text, space around or between elements, shape creation by using negative spaces (space in-between), highlighting important aspects through contrast/complementary colors.


Hierarchy creates organization


It's important to keep your message clear and concise. There should be a single message that matters more than all others - this should stand out the most and lead your audience into the rest of your content.


Direct the Viewer’s Eye


The consistency of your choice while you are designing a page or using photographs is crucial. You must choose, in the beginning when it comes to drawing out attention on paper with either an illustration that points at something else and directs the viewer's eye or by choosing where they should be looking within a photograph’s frame itself. When you use photo directionality (like hands pointing towards text) this can become more emphatic than just bulking up one element over another without any context for why someone might want to look there first.

How to Tell a Visual Story

 

There are many ways you can craft a visual story, but there's one thing that must be done before any of it - know what your message is! You need to identify what you want to communicate in order for this process to work. For example, are you selling a product, telling the story of your company's history or are you sharing an experience? Once you know what you want to say and who it is for, we can start crafting!

 

The best stories are the ones that make you feel something and find yourself emotionally invested. Video for brands should be able to do this as well, so it is important to make your audience feel the same emotions you want them to associate with your brand.

 

Find a common thread that connects all of these elements together in order for the story to come alive and be more effective, like connecting imagery or colors back to an idea you are trying to convey. It's not always necessary but can help when there are a lot of different elements.

The Importance of Sound in Visual Storytelling


Sound is an essential aspect of any story because it helps to create the atmosphere and mood, builds suspense and tension as well as cues emotion from viewers/readers. It can also be a great way to break up text-heavy content.


It's important that sound is used in the right places and for the appropriate duration to create an immersive experience with your story. Don't overwhelm listeners, make sure there are pauses or even silence as well so they don't get bored listening! Sound is especially effective when you want to create a narrative or sense of place.


It's always important to know what you need sounds for and who it is for - are your storytellers speaking, music playing in the background? That will help determine which sound effects should be used- not all of them work together!

Conclusion


Designing a visual story can be challenging, but there are many techniques and principles that can help you craft the perfect visual story. The importance of color, contrast and hierarchy should all be considered when designing a visual story to ensure clarity and organization. Also important is knowing what your message is for the viewers before constructing the story. After creating an idea in which you want to share, it is also imperative that you use sound appropriately to create focus or mood as well as create suspenseful moments for storytelling purposes. Use this guide as a starting point, I hope you find it helpful!