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Increase Communication Success with Visual Storytelling

Everybody loves that feeling of being able to recognize and understand something quickly without having to decipher what someone is talking about. Just as they do in wayfinding signage, visual cues in marketing go a long way to help your audience get that “I am a smart cookie” boost by providing them with recognizable icons, pictograms, infographics, illustrations and images that streamline data and concept absorption and understanding.

Back in the Day

The idea of using visual cues to get a message across goes way back. Our ancestors lived in a world where their survival was dependent on what they saw around them, committing visual landmarks and visual cues to memory; there is water by that three-hill formation to the left, the plant with three leaves is not good toilet paper, and so on allowed them to survive and learn. As we evolved, we learned to communicate these concepts and messages to others by using writing – and, in its earliest form – drawings.

Simplifying things today

Today we can use graphics, icons and pictograms to communicate or support complex ideas so that we can give our audience the essence of an idea, fast. The idea of visual storytelling can be effective in many applications from web, to print, and of course, presentations.

upward-arrowFor example, when making a presentation, icons and illustrations can communicate an idea in some cases just as well as a paragraph of text. Think about how much more interesting and potentially easier to digest it might be for your audience. You might be talking about the intricacies of how your app can increase sales over a short period time. While you are talking about this in great detail to your audience, consider resisting the urge to use a word-for-word powerpoint slide, and try instead to just use a simple illustration of a graph with bars going up to sum up the main gist of your message. This simple graphical representation of your message will allow the audience to sit back and listen to your fabulous talk while their understanding is gently helped along by the support of your informative graphic.

Hmm, an informative graphic you say? Well, that brings me to the mother of all visual storytelling – the infographic. We have seen a huge rise in the use of infographics over the last couple of years as a way to illustrate complex ideas into attention-grabbing, hard-hitting, visual layouts. With the use of symbols, icons and pictograms that resonate with viewers, your message can be absorbed faster and clearer in some cases making it accessible to even laymen.


Really simple but effective infographic by Lokesh Dhakar – instead of writing out the components of each coffee drink and the ratios, these little graphical representations instantly show the recipe. Short and sweet use of illustration, very fast transmission of the idea.

The Take-Away for Visual Storytelling

We recommend you give thinking visually a try when you are communicating with your audience. You don’t have to recreate your presentations and materials, but try utilizing the power of icons, illustrations, and graphics to simplify more complex ideas. You might just find that it helps get your message across quicker and at a higher level of understanding and retention for your viewers.

Post by Jannah Lyon, creative director and visual storyteller for Placemaking Group.

2 Responses

  1. Lauren Melenbacker

    I really enjoyed this post because it clearly articulates something I’ve come to know during my time in social media management: graphics-based images almost always preform better than their text-based counterparts. I like that visual storytelling allows for ample creativity – which really makes the job more fun – and further is likely to better engage consumers than boring ol’ verbiage. This post really articulates the power of visual storytelling’s one-two punch.

  2. Julie Rovai

    This post is so great for me because I am definitely a visual learning and I think most people tend to lean that way also! Especially when presenting information or trying to teach something new to someone, using visuals is so key. This post helps affirm that and hopefully shows everyone in marketing or PR how important visuals are!

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