5 Designers’ Tips to Improve your Visual Storytelling

There is more to telling stories than just sharing information. Stories are about bringing ideas to life, and nothing does that better than a visual image. A picture is worth a thousand words – especially in the fast-paced digital age when you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.

The reason why visuals are such an important part of storytelling is because of the way that human memory works. According to MIT research, the human brain can identify an image within 13 milliseconds. What is more, 90% of the information received by the human brain is visual and it processes images 60,000 times faster than text. The human brain is made to remember visually.

So, how can you improve your visual storytelling?

Here are five tips from a designer’s perspective: 

The first impression should be “Wow!”

The first impression is the most important one. The human brain can make a really quick impression-based and connect an image with existing memories and ideas stored from before. Most decisions are made pretty quickly, based on this subconscious principle.

If the audience finds the design boring or not particularly pleasing at first glance, it is highly unlikely that their opinion will change. That’s why the creator should invest a lot of time in creating the beginning of the story. To catch the eye of the audience and keep their attention, the colors, shapes, and perspectives need to be both eye-catching and well-integrated.

Add human elements in visual storytelling

Humans are your audience, so it’s smart to make them the main object of your story. This is what designers call the “people factor”. 

Get to know your audience and make a story around people like them. Using a real person’s image and the story is a great way to make the story relatable. This way, the audience will get a real vision of who the message is coming from and connect with them. This is a great way of building trust and creating an image of a stable business. Even one abstract human figure added to the design can make a difference and give your brand a face.

The MoMa Century of the Child exhibition is a great example of smart use of the “people factor”. This project was created to celebrate modern design for children in the 20th century, exposing designs created by many designers and artists from all over the world. The website brings a number of images from the exhibition, supported by stories about the objects.

Another amazing example of this type of visual storytelling is, Firestorm is a unique multimedia project of The Guardian, telling the story of the Holmes family, who were running from a violent bushfire in Tasmania. The story of the devastation of their community was told in a way no human could ever remain indifferent.

Communicate with emotions

When it comes to design, a good image shouldn’t only be visually pleasing – it should also provoke our senses. People are creatures of emotion, and the easiest way to get their attention is to evoke a feeling. Whether it’s nostalgia, fear, love, or sadness, a feeling is what really makes the story come to life. In order to achieve this, you should play with light, depth and the size of the objects.

Colors are also a very important factor when it comes to emotions. Each color is connected to a different emotion. According to research, people take about 90 seconds to make a decision about other people and products, and around 62-90% of the decision is related to colors. 

When you want to evoke urgency, raise the audience’s heart rate and blood pressure, use red. Red is also connected with passion and sensuality. 

When you want to achieve a calming atmosphere, promote security and trust, use blue

Purple boosts creativity promotes wisdom and is often used in the cosmetic industry specifically for anti-age products.

If your story is about nature, use green. Green also relaxes the audience, stimulates brain harmony, and helps people be more decisive.

Orange and yellow are positive colors that stimulate optimism, while black is connected to power, strength, and luxury. 

Have a clear message

Every campaign starts with a good message. And the message and its narrative always need to be clear. A clear and simple message comes from knowing the nature of the product or service thoroughly and determining what makes it different from its competitors. 

Who is your company? What are your values? What’s so special about you? What’s so unique about your product or service? After understanding all these things, you’ll be able to create a clear message using visual storytelling methods. 

That’s why, before creating the story, you need to spend time understanding the problem and its solution. Understand the people you want to impact with your story and only in that way you will be able to discover how to reach them.

Less is more in visual storytelling

In order to make it clear, the message has to be simple. When it comes to design, less is more. 

Don’t use too much text as it drives the attention away from the visuals. This rule is so engraved in our nature that even Social Media sites like Facebook, whose ranking algorithms are based solely on human interaction, do not allow more than a few words of text in the image of an ad. Make the sentences short and sweet, using simple words.

Keep the color palette simple as well. Limit it to a maximum of five colors and don’t use too many shades. Challenge yourself to deliver the message as simple as you can.

Visual storytelling is the best tool that can help you reach a wider audience with your story and share memorable and impactful messages. However, it can’t help you if you don’t have a good story to tell. So first create a meaningful story, and then tell it in a way that will amplify connection, emotion, and action.

Jana Andeva

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