The art of storytelling is as old as the human race itself. Our earliest forms of communication were deeply visual in nature. Even up today, that hasn't changed.
In fact, if anything, having a mastery of visual storytelling techniques has become more important than ever. The success of our marketing, advertising, and much of our digital entertainment relies on a solid understanding of such skills.
It's the reason why Samantha Lile has shared a list of 10 visual storytelling techniques in this article from the blog on Visme. If you've never heard of Visme, it's is an online tool for creating top-notch and visually rich infographics and presentations.
Samantha's 10 visual storytelling techniques are discussed with digital marketers in mind. That said, as you go through them, consider how students can apply them to their own creative visually-oriented class projects.
10 Awesome Visual Storytelling Techniques
These best practices for storytelling with visual flair speak to a growing trend in the patterns of digital information we consume every day. Samantha echoes this sentiment in her article:
"Visuals are also more effective than text at evoking emotion and inspiring audiences to take action – both useful marketing tools. Think about it: Which type of advertisement is more likely to grab and retain your attention: radio or television?"
All one needs to do is look at social media growth to confirm this trend. For example, between 2013 and 2016, the number of Instagram users has gone from 90 million to over 600 million. Pinterest and Snapchat have enjoyed substantial growth as well. Social media is one of the best and most popular visual storytelling tools in use today. It's part of why it has become such a sharp focus for digital marketers.
Here is a summary of Samantha's 10 visual storytelling techniques for success:
- Show Don't Tell: Don’t tell your audience something if you can make them see it. Use vivid text or images.
- Remember First Impressions: The human brain is programmed to make quick impressions followed by fast decisions. Make the first impression one that sticks for all the best reasons.
- Make it Move: This doesn't necessarily just mean video or animation, although it can. A photograph can also be made to portray dynamic movement.
- Build an Arc: Remember that a story must have exactly that—a story arc. This means having a clear beginning, middle, and end. In other words, it must take us on a journey.
- Conflict: Without some form of conflict, there is no story. Anyone can walk to the corner and back, can't they? The question is, what happens along the way and where does it take us?
- Relate to People: Samantha reminds us in her article that people relate deeply to human stories rather than ones about animate objects. Give your tale the human touch.
- Teach a Valuable Lesson: This is about providing some kind of message or conclusion people can learn from and take with them beyond the storytelling experience.
- Use Effective Images: These are the meat and potatoes of your visual story. Use images that compliment the story well and help it to flow.
- Hold Their Focus: Don't get lost in providing details, details, details. Some are important, of course, but remember to keep the intended message out in front.
- Remember the Hitchcock Rule: This is a celebrated cinematic philosophy from the great man himself. Hitchcock's rule basically states that the size of any object in your frame should be proportional to its importance to the story at that moment.
Want to learn more about using visual storytelling techniques? Check out Samantha Lile's article on Visme
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Feb 12, 2017, updated September 19, 2021