Visual stories have the power to transport us and make our words come to life. They may include graphs, maps, illustrations, charts or diagrams to best tell your story in a way that will help capture your audience. The best visual stories are easily digestible, memorable and evocative. By delivering a compelling narrative, your audiences will be more inclined to continue “reading on” and interact with your brand.
1. Plan Ahead.
A typical approach to content creation begins with developing text, and is followed by a search for or creation of images to support the message. With visual storytelling, the graphics and images play an equally, if not more, important part to the process and should be considered from the early stages of the content creation process.
According to Brian Barrus, Creative Director at Studio Element “In design, there’s a tendency to say, ‘This is what I need you to know, so I’ll make that the first thing you see.’ When you’re telling a story visually, however, you need to approach it differently. First, you set up the context or the problem, and then you deliver the resolution or moral to the story.” Visual storytelling requires careful planning in order to determine how to best present each part of your message in a unique and impressionable way.
2. Choose Your Visuals Wisely.
It can be said a picture is worth 60,000 words – quite literally. Studies show this is the rate we process images versus text on a page. Another study by Brain Rules also shows,
“When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.”
By creatively presenting your message, you are able to create a memorable experience and lasting impression on your audiences.
Instead of relying on a block of text, visual storytelling follows ‘show, don’t tell’ approach which results in greater engagement, traffic and interactions. In a blog post, Getty Images expertly describes the importance of compelling visuals by stating,
“Visuals help us tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. But they have to be the right visuals. And when the visual is a powerful one, be it an image or video, the effect is magnified.”
Telling your story through visual is only the first step. It’s important to make your image selections based on what will best resonate with your audience and most-effectively tell your story.
3. Awaken the Senses.
A good image not only pleases the eye, but also stimulates the senses. Images go far beyond communicating a place or thing – they can create warmth, evoke nostalgia, or instill fear. By working with textures, light, motion, sounds, and implied heat, taste, and smell, you can pull audiences in and make your story “come to life”. Color also plays a large role in triggering an emotional reaction. Research has shown that people “make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90% of the assessment is based on colors alone.” By awakening the senses, your story will keep audiences intrigued and searching for more.
4. Carve the Path.
Movement in visual storytelling drives audiences to continue on throughout the narrative. This can be accomplished by adding parallax features, interaction on scroll or unexpected movement within stand-still imagery. However, movement within visual storytelling should not take away from the narrative you are trying to tell. Adding subtle details, such as a dog’s tail wagging or stars twinkling in a sky, adds an element of surprise, keeping audiences engaged, while contributing, not taking away from, your message.
The New York Times story, Snow Fall, is a great example of visual storytelling that incorporates these different elements throughout the narrative. As you scroll and move further along in the story, the reader is surprised with audio, video and other interactive elements, evoking emotion, holding their interest and allowing them to interact with the content. The Atlantic reported, “The Times’s first bold leap into an experience-based feature, wholly separated from the rest of its site, has so far received an overwhelmingly positive reception online, with people on Twitter calling it both “beautiful” and “brilliant”. And then came the whispers: is this the “future of online journalism“?” The New York Time’s compelling visual piece created deep, lasting impressions and helped bring the take of the Tunnel Creek Avalanche to life.
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