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What Is Visual Storytelling?

Updated: Jan 25


Everyone's heard the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words." When you talk with professionals in film, photography, graphic design, and countless other mediums, they often live and die by that phrase.


In the fast-paced, modern world of the internet, finding ways to inform and entertain people quickly and efficiently is essential. It's a rare occurrence that people will take the time to stop and read an extensive amount of information in one go. That means businesses and creators today need to find new ways to communicate with their audiences.

That's why visual storytelling is critical. It extends into countless fields and disciplines and increases reception, retention, and conversion rates. If your company is looking for ways to engage with your audience, understanding visual storytelling is essential. Here is what visual storytelling is, why it matters, and how you can apply it to your platform in as many ways as possible.

What Is Visual Storytelling?

Visual storytelling is the art and science of communicating information using visual multimedia. It involves using videos, visuals, graphics, and other visual tools to help audiences understand the messages communicated more effectively. It's not just haphazardly throwing a stock photo or video next to a block of text—it's about creating a synthesis between the two mediums in a memorable and impactful way for wider audiences.

Visual storytelling was first used in the realm of entertainment. For years, people and artists of all kinds have impacted people through visual creations. Information communicated visually is more meaningful and effective than other methods.

In the past, this communication was primarily done through visual media, like paintings and drawings. Skilled artists could display an entire visual story through their pictures. Some of these images even communicate valuable information and stories to people today, hundreds or even thousands of years after they were made.

At the beginning of the modern age, the advent of film enabled storytellers to share stories more effectively. Using moving pictures could show their audiences stories in an eye-catching, exciting way. In the beginning, silent films were the primary method of doing this, and it was widely successful because of visual storytelling’s impact.

In the modern world, it's never been easier to share photos and videos using social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Many companies design their entire content marketing strategy around these apps and use effective visual storytelling to grab their audience's attention.

If you are trying to reach out to people effectively, visual storytelling is one of the most critical areas. While it requires more intentionality and focus to do it right, it can lead to higher levels of interaction and is more useful for communicating information effectively and efficiently.

The Power of a Visual Narrative

One of the primary aspects of visual storytelling is the idea of a visual narrative. Every story needs to tell a story to communicate with its audience effectively.

Case studies and research have shown that human brains respond more quickly to visual inputs, and retention is more effective than simple text on a page. This doesn't mean you can't use visual storytelling to convey simple facts and information to your viewers—it just means you need to do it cleverly.

A narrative or story communicates a lesson, emotion, or story arc in a compelling way for whoever is viewing or consuming it. This remains true for visual storytelling to be effective.

A good story is dynamic, creates dialogue, and often makes use of a hero to create an impact on the viewer. Here is what that means in the context of effective visual storytelling.

Dynamic

Every good piece of visual content is dynamic, with a good balance of content and information on display. That often means using the space you have available in the most effective way. Instead of filling in every pixel with information, allowing blank space can help your audience focus on the valuable information you are trying to communicate.

You can also create dynamic content by incorporating multiple mediums into your visual storytelling. For example, many infographics incorporate text, GIFs, images, and well-designed graphics. This makes the content more memorable and impactful and enables it to stick in people's minds more powerfully. Finding multiple mediums for communication is essential because it makes it easier for those with different learning styles and preferences to engage with your content effectively.

Display And Create Dialogue

One of the most important focuses of visual storytelling is dialogue, which generally falls into two subgroups.

The first thing that companies should focus on is displaying dialogue. While doing this with audio is normal today, it's also common to communicate content directly and genuinely. Instead of just stating cold, hard facts, talk in a way that feels like a genuine conversation with your viewers. This reinforces authenticity as a primary focus and can help your audience instantly feel more comfortable and open to receiving information.

The second thing to focus on is creating a dialogue with your audience members. This means creating a story that isn't entirely finished that calls on them to complete. Creating inspiration to action and discussion with your storytelling can increase engagement, thereby increasing the content's effectiveness.

Feel free to ask questions of the viewers—this creates intentional thought and dialogue with them, even if it's just in their own minds. Introduce tension to the information you are communicating, so you aren't just communicating static facts that they likely won't do anything with.

Create a Hero

One of the biggest similarities between traditional and visual storytelling is that both mediums generally focus on creating a hero. The main difference is that in visual storytelling, the hero is more often than not the customer themselves.

This is done by communicating empathy and ascribing value to the customer. Everyone wants to feel like a hero. If you can do that through your visual storytelling, it is likely to make your content more effective.

Relate customers to stories they likely have already heard of or show them how they can have a genuine impact on their own lives and the lives of those around them. Tie it all back to the information you are communicating, and your content will be effective and powerful.

The Benefits of Visual Content

In the modern world of content creation, it seems like everything is becoming more and more visual. That's for a good reason—it's just more effective.

However, while we all experience how effective visual communication is daily, it's important to understand why it's effective to best use visual storytelling.

Knowing the psychology and facts behind these kinds of mediums can help to drastically improve your content effectiveness and turn your potential customers into dedicated clients.

Here are some of the primary reasons visual content is so powerful.

Visual Content Is Easier To Understand

One of the main reasons social media is so powerful is that it's easy to understand. Many companies are focusing more on creating high-quality graphics and photos because they are better at communicating information than traditional text-based content. The human brain is wired to understand visual stimuli more effectively.

Captions also provide a useful way to create a more dynamic presentation of information. Pairing photos and other visual content with more in-depth captions can help combine in-depth information with visually enticing content.

Even when focusing on text-based content, focusing on high-quality typography is effective. Making larger blocks of text more visually appealing can grab viewers' attention more powerfully.

Visual Content Increases Social Engagement

When creating online content, focus on making it as shareable as possible. People just don’t want to post blocks of text on their stories and social media pages, so it's critical to make sure that they will actually want to share your content with their follower bases.

If you want to increase your presence on social media, consider investing in a good graphic designer. It's their job to make sure that all of the information you share is created in an aesthetically and visually appealing way. People will be inclined to share your content, increasing the number of people who will see the information you share.

People Consume Visual Content More Effectively

In the modern world, most people don't have enough patience for text-based information. If people even take the time to read the text (which is a one in five chance), they will likely only read between 20-30 percent of the words. If the information hasn't been communicated to them within fifteen seconds, they will likely give up and move on to something else.

However, visual content is another story. People consume and process visual information 60,000 times faster than text-based information. That means that in fifteen seconds, there is a good chance that a viewer effectively consumed information, processed it, and created internal dialogues based around it.

While text-based information is simpler and easier to create, it just isn't as effective as incorporating visual storytelling elements into your content. However, the primary thing to focus on in these situations is prioritizing creativity in developing content. Creating motion graphics and other ways to spice up your websites, movies, and blog posts can help you communicate with your audiences effectively.

Examples of Visual Storytelling

One of the primary ways digital marketers today use visual storytelling is through video. Video is one of the most enticing ways to grab your audience's attention and communicate information in a way they’ll remember. Here are some of the main ways you can use video to illustrate effective narratives to your audience.

Testimonial Videos

Testimonials tell the individual stories of real-world people and their experiences with a product or service. These can illustrate the actual effectiveness and reasoning behind why your audience would want to interact with you by using energy, emotions, and empathy.

Corporate Videos

If you are looking to communicate with your employees and partners, corporate videos can help to tell stories that simple worlds cannot. Pairing visual media with high-quality scripts and assets can help to display the true value behind your company at large.

Commercials

Commercials are the epitome of visual storytelling. Displaying a need and then providing your company's solution to that need tells an incredible story and effectively pulls in all kinds of audiences.

How 7 Wonders Uses Visual Storytelling

At 7 Wonders, visual storytelling is one of the main tools we use to create high-quality content. We've made it our goal to master the art of creating and displaying a visual narrative in a way that is exciting to any audience that you might want to reach out to.

We use the medium of video to show people information in a way that impacts them and helps them process and comprehend the content more deeply. Focusing on that has given us the opportunity and privilege to work with a wide variety of massively successful organizations and businesses. If you are looking for a team to work with to create visual content that is truly dynamic and powerful, don’t hesitate to reach out to 7 Wonders.

Sources:

'A picture is worth a thousand words' - meaning and origin | Phrases

Infographic: Five Scientific Reasons People Are Wired To Respond To Visual Marketing | Entrepreneur

A comparative study of visual and auditory reaction times on the basis of gender and physical activity levels of medical first year students | NCBI


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