Brand Insights

For Health Science Executives

Visual Storytelling Makes Brands More Compelling

Visual Storytelling Makes Brands More Compelling

By Karan Cushman, July 27, 2016

Nothing communicates the importance of your research faster than a visual story. By helping viewers “get it” quickly through the power of design, visual storytelling encourages connection and, ultimately, your desired response.

Everyone you hope to motivate — be they researchers, donors, investors, media people or potential partners — is a human being. As such, the most effective way to create a response is to make an emotional connection. And visual storytelling will get you there even quicker.

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to market a bioresearch brand. Stories “humanize” research, which can otherwise seem cold and sterile. Stories translate what you see under a microscope into its impact on human beings in the real world. And no technique gets the job done faster than visual storytelling.

We usually think of stories as spoken or written down. But a picture’s worth a thousand words because it can communicate instantly, whether it’s in print, on the web, static, or moving. Brains love pictures. In fact, 90% of information absorbed into the brain comes from visual stimuli. So, no matter how good your copy or your data may be, good design will always capture the imagination faster. In this way, good visual storytelling achieves three goals:

  1. It “stops the viewer in their tracks” with one or more strong, compelling visuals.
  2. It gets your message — and its value — across in a moment.
  3. It not only helps the viewer understand you; it creates an emotional connection that shows you understand them.

Here are seven ways design can help people better understand how your research, discovery or products can improve their lives:

1. Photographs

In the development of any brand story, it’s important to consider what visual style best represents your brand. Photography brings a level of truth that may be essential to helping your story resonate with viewers.

Even if it’s staged or manipulated for a specific marketing purpose, a photograph sends the message: “this is real.” Photographs excel at encouraging support by showing how real people enjoy real benefits. They bring validation to testimonials by giving a face to whoever’s praising you. Photography can also highlight objects the eye can’t normally see by showing them larger than life. And although a photograph is made with a simple click of the shutter – the world of photography is vast and stylistic choices limitless. It will be important to define exactly the look that represents your brand and tells your story best.

2. Illustrations

Illustrations offer more flexibility than traditional photography – giving you the ability to create an image of something that doesn’t yet exist. A scientific illustration can depict a research process or capture something conceptual that the eye can’t see. For instance, the best medical photograph can’t show you protein folding, or how a therapy impacts human tissue when there’s no visual change. Illustration also enables you to visually highlight objects or activity that might not stand out in a photograph.

But a greater challenge with illustration is determining what style is right.When it comes to effective storytelling, crafting clear visual guidelines is as important as those for your brand voiceAs example, if you are a life science company that has developed a new customer support system, illustration may be the only way to represent your offering. Here, a friendly, casual, style may say “we’re here for you” most effectively. That said, for other organizations a more serious tone may be necessary. And if any of this brand guidelines speak isn’t inspiring to your story, it may be time to develop them more clearly.

3. Infographics

Infographics are a growing communications trend and a perfect fit for Biomedical nonprofits and Life Science companies that need to communicate heavy data and grab their readers’ attention. From basic charts to data-driven artwork, infographics present complex information in a visual way.

Unlike a spreadsheet or list of results, infographics summarize vast amounts of data and highlight the most important information at the same time. The style and tone of infographics also play a role by tying into your branding and supporting the story other elements are telling.

4. Icons

Icons are simple representative symbols. The mark portion of a logo is one of the most common icons in marketing because they are often used as graphic elements (think Nike swoosh). Icons live on computers and phones as buttons to launch apps and other software, as examples.

Icons simplify communication by “standing in” for larger concepts, making them easier to recognize, directing attention, or making the most of limited space. Well-designed icons are simple enough to recognize from a distance or when printed very small. Icons can also call attention to a specific action that you want a user to take. For example, “go online to learn more about…” could be a simple icon of a finger pointing to an ipad screen.

5. Printing Techniques and Paper Choices

Printing offers many tools to support visual storytelling. Paper, ink, varnish and other techniques can add layers to your storyline by highlighting concepts and leading readers on a specific journey. Sepia-toned photos, vintage papers and various ink applications can suggest a historic feel emphasizing your company’s longevity. Slick varnishes and metallic ink communicate innovation and high technology, and also offer stunning effects to scientific images. Uncoated paper with a rich texture might support a human interest or patient story. Folding techniques can ensure that information is seen in a specific order or sections of information easily found in a longer print document. Even glitter, yes glitter, can bring a concept alive and add an unexpected spark to a fundraising event we recently did for Make-A-Wish Maine.

6. Color

Color is one of the most important considerations in visual storytelling. It is the primary sense we have as humans to make sense of our environment. And as we identify a color it has the power to trigger an immediate emotional response. Thoughtful color choices support your brand message. Random or inappropriate selections can send conflicting signals. As you look to differentiate and emphasize your brand’s unique value over and over through visual storytelling, give careful thought to the psychology and impact of color, remembering also that its consistent use is key.

7. Typography

Selecting typefaces is also key part of making emotional connections. If type didn’t matter, we could simply use Helvetica for everything and brands would become nothing more than road signs.

Type design is an art form with the ability to lift words from a page, stir emotion and inspire action. Type can convey elegance simply through the use of a fancy script, or trend-setting innovation with a clean, futuristic design. A typographical treatment has the power to stand on its own or interact with other elements, as in our award-winning “Breaking Through” design.

Putting the pieces together

Everything we’ve described here is a tool in the design toolbox. The real art of design isn’t any of these elements by itself, but their careful selection and the way they combine to support your messaging platform and drive the value of your story home in a meaningful and compelling way.

Are you proud of a particular communication piece your group has created? We invite you to share it below….

Tagged: Branding, Design, Digital, Donor Communications, Marketing Strategy, Visual Storytelling

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