In the era of the internet and mobile devices we finally have a chance of using visual storytelling to it’s full potential. People are visually oriented creatures that want to communicate effectively. This definitely goes for businesses through advertising. So let’s look at why visual storytelling works so well in this first part.
“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.”
The science historian and futurist George Dyson made this insightful observation back in 2011, but his words could not be more true today. In a world inundated with information and big data, the task at hand for editors, graphic artists, illustrators, programmers and journalists is not to create more information, but to make sense of what’s already out there.
And this is where visual storytelling comes into the picture. A combination of two powerful concepts–visual content and storytelling–visual storytelling is the next big thing in every field related to communication, from content marketing and graphic design to data journalism and digital media.
To illustrate the enormous power of these two concepts combined, let’s tackle each individually.
Visual Content Reigns
Visual content is by far the most effective medium of communication on the Internet today. Whether it comes in the form of stunning images, captivating video, or colorful infographics, visual content is the new king of the digital world.
The numbers also attest to this. According to statistics from November 2014, image-based social media platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram grew exponentially, outpacing traditionally text-based platforms many times over (see graph above, no newer data is available at this moment).
The reason for this is simple, even though the name for it may sound complex. It’s called the Picture Superiority Effect, and it simply refers to the fact that concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented in visual form rather than as words.
This makes sense when you know that the human mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and that 83% of human learning is visual, as opposed to auditory or verbal.
But visual content on its own cannot move audiences to take a certain action. You need stories to do that. This is why storytelling is such an important ingredient in the visual content marketing mix and where it becomes visual storytelling.
Storytelling: A Tool for Finding Meaning
Defined simply as the act of narrating a sequence of events that are causally connected, storytelling is at the heart of what makes human beings capable of extracting meaning from seemingly incongruous and unrelated data. In fact, cognitive scientists believe that the human mind innately processes and stores incoming information in the form of stories.
To see for yourself how the human mind makes sense of information by creating stories, read the following three sentences:
He went to the store
Sharon went hungry and wept.
After reading this, did you assume that “he” in the first sentence referred to “Fred” in the second sentence? Did you somehow connect Sharon with Fred and conclude that she wept because Fred died? Did you also assume that Fred went to a grocery store to get something for Sharon to eat?
This short exercise from Kendall Haven’s book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story reveals how the brain, by default, creates stories from a series of events even if they are unrelated. According to psychologist Jerome Bruner, the human mind uses narratives to give shape to events in the real world and then perceives them as reality.
“Why do we use story as the form for telling about what happens in life and in our own lives? Because, most often, life follows story form and format. We use it because it usually works. Because it usually works, we have learned to rely on it as our primary mental model,” he writes.
Another reason stories are preferred by the human mind is that they bring order to the events we perceive around us. Because the human mind is always demanding meaning, whether consciously or unconsciously, it goes so far as to create, and even invent, connections between events by using basic story elements such as cause-and-effect sequencing, common themes and character analysis. What’s more, if the mind cannot create an orderly narrative from incoming information, it tends to ignore it.
To say the least, stories are powerful. When combined with visual content, they can send a message, incite emotions and move to action more effectively than any other form of communication out there.
Now that we’ve explored the reasons behind why visual storytelling surpasses all other content forms, it’s time to take a look now at the trends that are shaping its future, at least this year. But before we dive into that I would suggest to let this sink in. Later this week we’ll get back to you on the visual storytelling trends that are expected for 2016, when we continue with Part 2 of this article. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to let us know what you think!