4 Visual Storytelling Best Practices - Insights

4 Visual Storytelling Best Practices

by Ashley Taylor Anderson, Ceros

3 minute read

As human beings, we instinctively know that visuals are more powerful than purely text-based content. Yes, we can craft compelling stories with just words and our readers’ imaginations, but adding visuals can help us bring our words to life.

This interactive graphic backs up our instincts with some interesting stats:

Not only is visual content integral to how we process information, but it also drives increased engagement from our audience.

What does this mean for brand storytellers? We should be investing just as much time and creativity into our visual content as we do for our written content. And yet, visuals are often treated as an afterthought rather than one half of the storytelling duo.

Visual storytelling doesn’t come naturally to many of us design-impaired marketers (myself included). Luckily, there are some established dos and don’ts we can follow to ensure that our visuals are relevant and effective. Here are four best practices for visual storytelling.

1. Say No to Bad Stock Photos

I dare you to search the hashtag #stockphotofails on Twitter and see what people post. You’re in for a good laugh.

Why does this hashtag exist? Because there are a lot of really cheesy/awful stock photos out there that ignore visual storytelling best practices. People respond to genuine, authentic images, not to posey water cooler photos or Pottery Barn-perfect room setups. Bad visuals can be worse than having no images at all if they alienate your audience members or rub them the wrong way.

Using high-quality photos for your brand storytelling is just as important as using high-quality writing. Invest in a few good stock resources—they do exist, in both free and paid formats. You should also leverage the photography skills of your teammates to round out your portfolio with some highly unique content.

2. Engage the Senses


Photos and videos provide a two-dimensional stand-in for a three-dimensional experience. While augmented reality approximates a 3D viewing experience, most marketers are limited to traditional images and film for their content programs.

One way we can strive to create a more tactile experience with our visuals is to find graphics that engage the senses. By working with textures, light, motion, sounds, and implied heat, taste, and smell, you can pull readers in and make your story more real to them. (See photo above: Now I really want some coffee!)

3. Tap into Universal Archetypes


There are certain characters we see over and over again in stories, regardless of where or when they were written. These characters are called archetypes, and they tap into some deep, shadowy river that runs through humanity, flowing through our collective subconscious. Images that invoke these traditional archetypal characters can have a powerful impact on viewers.

For example, the photo above plays with The Bard archetype. Buskers are our modern-day bard equivalents—at least in NYC!

4. Choose Images that Resonate


The best way to source images is to know who your audience is: Who they are, where they live, what types of jobs they have, what they do for fun, where they hang out online and offline. This information will help you choose visuals that resonate with your viewers.

The Bottom Line

Visual storytelling and brand storytelling should really be synonymous. The graphics you choose to tell your brand stories are just as important as the words you use. These best practices will help you avoid bad stock photo syndrome and create a lasting impression on your audience.

For even more tips, check out our interactive eBook, The Power of Visual Storytelling.

Ashley Taylor Anderson is Director of Content at Ceros.