Mastering Visual Storytelling: Three Tips To Avoid Tech Tunnel Vision


Every generation experiences a creative movement.  Back in the day of Andy Warhol, artists recognized visual communication was moving at breakneck speed.  Warhol himself said, “The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will.”  It’s true, from still imagery to graphic design and digital animation, when a story comes to life; it’s the visuals that leave a lasting imprint.

Brands are learning quickly that leaving a lasting impression is much easier said than done.  As a result, they’re rethinking their visual and digital storytelling practices to stay relevant and top of mind with their audiences.

These businesses understand that they need compelling content and new technologies play a part.  Today, there are many more choices to be aesthetically pleasing and to deliver meaningful content.  At the same time, professionals need to be more selective about the tools and technologies they choose and the creative techniques they apply.

The Battle For Attention And Emotional Connection

Your content is battling for attention while consumers are unconsciously absorbing thousands of messages a day.  Wanting your story to be recognized, appreciated, and remembered makes it easier to fall for “shiny new objects.”  However, using technology that doesn’t support your story or excite your audience is not the answer.  You can’t get around the need to have a deep understanding of both your story and the tools and technologies available to tell them.  If you feel that your stories are well thought out but they just aren’t getting any traction, then here are three great visual tips to raise your creative bar, while avoiding what I call the Tech Tunnel Vision Trap.

1. Every Story Must Be Authentic And Strike A Balanced Approach

A good story is closely aligned with the cultural or personal beliefs of the audience and one that your brand is qualified to tell.  The technology you choose helps you to achieve this balance by enhancing the point of view while creating the visuals that connect with your audience and resonate on a deeper emotional level.

2. Avoid Emphasizing The Tools And Technology Platforms Over A Good Story

For example, Virtual Reality (VR) can unlock an amazing experience, but it’s not for every brand campaign. Always consider your options so the science can serve the art properly.  Should you use still photography or motion graphics, flat or 3D visuals, computer generated imaging or augmented reality?  Sometimes a great still photo combined with computer-generated imaging is the right choice for the story and your budget.  Choose those that work best for each story and where the story will live.  It may be on canvas, or it may be on the Oculus.  Or it could be both.

3. As Your Options Become More Complex, It Makes Sense To Collaborate With Partners

Sometimes you need a little help from your friends.  Bring your partners into the process early, from your brand experts and designers to your developers.  Together, you will bring your story to life visually to achieve that lasting impression.

Not long ago, dermatology leader Galderma commissioned a campaign for Soolantra, a new pharmaceutical product to treat a skin condition called rosacea.  It started with a classic story archetype, “good guys vs.  bad guys.”  The team – which included artists, developers, and the brand team – focused first on preparing how to tell the story with single images.

During the initial stages, the challenge was to explore how to create engaging imagery depicting the clash between the heroes (the medication) and the villains (the skin affliction) with the print channel in mind.  CGI was the technique best suited to this artistic challenge, as it gave the design team precise control of the emotional impact.

It’s surprisingly difficult to create the perfect single image that conveys the full story.  The designers imbued the characters with highly expressive faces and postures and worked with the developers to be sure these treatments would translate wonderfully to animation, print – even 3D.  Once those explorations were complete, team members turned their attention to designing a wider palette of eye-catching visualizations for use in both print and digital media.

The final step was to create the animations that accompanied the digital launch – and again, the artists, CGI developers, and brand team collaborated closely.  In the end, Galderma’s stakeholders, its prospects, and the graphic community embraced the work, which earned a Cannes Lion.

Moving Forward Without Tech Tunnel Vision

New tools and technologies give you so much more control over your visual imagery, in ways not possible in years past.  However, the technology is only part of a compelling visual story; it’s not the whole story.

You have to consider the story first, strike the balance with your technology, and then drive home your effort with the right team.  When you do, your story will resonate on a much deeper level.

Remember, mastering digital storytelling is a careful blend of art and science.  After all, it was Andy Warhol who also said, “Art is what you can get away with.”

True, you can and should push the limits of your creativity and move out of your comfort zone.  But, when it comes to your audience, falling into the Tech Tunnel Vision Trap will not create the emotional connection, or leave that lasting impression.