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Visual Storytelling: Components, Examples & Importance

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Visual storytelling lets brands communicate their messages using graphics, images, pictures and videos. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this design element and its importance, and see some examples.

What Is Visual Storytelling?

The non-profit organization, Charity: Water, has one primary goal: to provide safe, clean drinking water to people in developing countries. Text on their website assures potential donors that, ''Private donors cover our operating costs so 100% of your donation will bring clean water to people in need.''

But if you venture over to Charity: Water's Instagram, which more than 373,000 people follow, you'll learn the story of the non-profit organization's work differently - through pictures. For example, you'll see children turning spigots of clean water and adults filling rain barrels.

Non-profit organizations helping provide clean drinking water around the world use images similar to this one to appeal to its donors.
visual, storytelling

Support for social organizations like Charity: Water is more effective when donors can see images of their funds at work. It creates transparency and cultivates an emotional connection between the business and its audience. Using different types of visual media to communicate a message is known as visual storytelling.

Visual storytelling allows brands and organizations to tell their company stories and engage viewers in a way that builds emotional attachment and spurs engagement. The most common components of visual storytelling include graphics, images, pictures and videos. Let's look at these more closely.

Components of Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling provides multiple opportunities to catch consumers' eyes. Here are a few tools you can use for visual storytelling.

Graphics

Graphics often include a combination of text, illustration and other design elements. They may create a visual representation of the number of people a company has helped or show how far an organization has to go to reach some predetermined goal.

For example, the website Internet Live Stats visually represents how many tweets are sent on Twitter in just one second. It displays one image of the Twitter bird for each of the 8,000+ tweets on a single page, sending you scrolling down the page to try to view them all. It is an impressive illustration that tells the story of the true volume of traffic on social media.

Graphics may include all variety of infographics, GIFs, line art, graphs, diagrams, typography, numbers, symbols, geometric shapes and other designs.

Images

In graphic design, images are drawn or digitally rendered representations of things. They can be powerful conveyors of emotion, helping represent both joyous and tragic moments. The importance of images can be seen especially in social media today, with entire channels like Instagram devoted to sharing photos of moments and stories.

Fast food chain Wendy's recently used the image of a $1 bill with a hamburger atop it in where a famous person's face would normally be to tell the story of its $1 double stack. Without any text, the restaurant was able to convey how its food offers value.

Pictures

National Geographic has long been the gold standard in using pictures, or photographs, to tell stories and engage people in breathtaking and emotional moments all over the world.

A recent post on Nat Geo's Twitter account tells the story of animal behavior at night. Of course, the story could easily have been written without any photos and might still have been engaging. But, seeing the photo essay of animals in their natural environment helps illustrate the story visually, creating a more full and interesting narration.

Pictures can run the gamut from buildings to animals to to nature to people (like Charity: Water uses). Anything that engages and explains simultaneously can be part of visual storytelling.

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