“Stories were the primary way our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values.”


Drew Westen, Professor of Psychology at Emory University


Advertisers have long known that effective branding revolves around successful communication of the knowledge and values, the story in other words, of the brand.


Stories help us to engage, understand and to remember; whether it is a family unit, a political movement or a corporate brand, the successful narrative creates cohesion within and without, providing the base around which we can collect and rally. It makes it easier to sell whatever is being sold and create loyalty around the brand, to encourage and motivate new and old fans alike.


We understand that stories are how we organise and make sense of the world around us, and that applies to both our distant past and our heavily branded present. The only thing that has really changed is the explosion of mediums via which we can communicate.


Given the importance of storytelling, how can a brand designer tell a story visually through their work?


Define the story.


Firstly, the story has to be clear. The vision shouldn’t be muddied. This might not be the designers job, but if the story doesn’t make sense to the designer, it isn’t likely to be perfect sense through their work either. It’s important that the story has clarity and that it fits with the rest of the brand.


Create visuals that connect to the story.


The look of the brand has to represent the tone of the story. Elegant? Happy? Urbane? Luxurious? These aren’t valueless adjectives to a designer, but touchstones that allow us to create a visual logic with elements such as color, type and images that will in turn connect the brand aesthetic to the brand story. We choose colours that connect to the feel or mood of the story behind the brand and do the same thing with the choice of image and typography.


Be Consistent.


We would always recommend a consistent approach to visual storytelling. When you know your story, and it works, stick to it. Think; smiling, happy people in Coca-Cola adverts and you’ll realise that hugely successful brands don’t tend to change their story (visual or otherwise) often.


Don’t overcomplicate things.


From the huge range of paper stock options to the unprecedented range of design effects available in the studio, there are more ways a designer can communicate a story visually now than ever before. It’s important however to note that the huge range of ways shouldn’t impede the means. The clarity of the brand, and the story behind it, come first. In advertising at least, the story that is best (most likely to engage and be remembered) is the one that is told simply.


Image from new Diet Coke campaign “Regret Nothing” set for release on 23rd January. Courtesy of The Drum magazine


By Oliver Brown