What Is (and What Isn’t) Visual Storytelling?

What Is (and What Isn’t) Visual Storytelling?
Milan buildings

Last Friday, because of the Milano Digital Week / the Social Media Week of Milan #SMWMilan held at the Samsung District, we had the opportunity to meet Massimo Lico, CEO of Visual Storytelling Academy Italia. For breakfast, we started the day off with storytelling in the digital age. Now, between two sips of your Monday morning coffee, take a bite of this complete guide on how to use Visual Storytelling to your advantage.


Visual Storytelling: the Ultimate Definition

To begin with, let’s say what visual storytelling IS NOT: it is not telling a story, at least that’s not what it’s only about. A timeline is always present when one is telling a story, but putting facts in chronological order doesn’t mean you are actually doing visual storytelling either. Posting a cup of coffee on your social media accounts is not storytelling. Although it may communicate what you are doing in that specific moment, you are not telling a story to your readers.

Now, let’s put the dots on the i’s. Visual storytelling is a study, an analysis of a series of elements. Advertising is not visual storytelling, but it can make use of it when needed. 

The brain thoughts are influenced by images and it processes them much faster than it does with written text. Images activate emotions and therefore the empathy processes that make us have reactions or feelings towards someone or something else.


Each of Us Is A Brand

Everything we do sends a message to the people that are around us or follow us. We are what we make others perceive about ourselves. We are what we make others feel, either it’s empathy, apathy, anger or any range of emotions. 

That said, nowadays consumers are much more familiar with what the features of a product are. We know what we are looking for and the thing we are looking for is a new or different experience. Companies all around the world tend to value a much more intimate relationship with their users and their public, now more then ever before.

In this case, how do companies and consumers meet in harmony? Through a communication method that uses images to reach and involve their public. This is visual storytelling. 


Atellani neon light


Not All Images Are Able to Communicate Something to Us

As we mentioned before, the words of the Visual Storyteller become images that help them communicate easily. Not all images are full of meaning though. It takes sensibility and accuracy to find or create images that can be fully effective in terms of speaking to an audience. There are some aspects we should take into consideration and they can be divided in 4 areas:


#1 Know your Audience

  • Who your audience is? Are they from the inside or the outside of your company?
  • In which way does your audience interact? Which channels do they use?
  • Make a social demographic profile — age, gender, religion, education
  • What kind of images are appealing to your audience? What is their typical visual imagery?


#2 Organize Your Core Story

  • Write down a narrative scheme, construct the story
  • Identify the subject and the script — from the text to the images
  • Create the storyboard, this is your operational tool to build the story
  • Organize time to work on the scenario and build the visual environment


#3 Pick the Right Medium

Some argue that “the medium is the message”. Whether you choose a billboard or social networking, you have to be sure it’s the right outlet to showcase your brand. This means the medium you choose to pass your message on can deeply influence (or even change) the behavior of the public. “We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us”. So be prepared to listen to your public’s feedback. Pick up the right place where your public is and you will be heard.


#4 Don’t Take These Aspects For Granted

  • Use of color
  • Frame & angle
  • Editing
  • Post-production


Long Story Short

Images should be our first form of expression and an effective communication framework. In the Social Media Marketing, the scope is to communicate in a democratic way. With the creation of so many Social Networking sites/apps a new scenario is born: the brand has the capacity to communicate directly / instantaneously with their audience and get instant feedback as well. This interaction allows communication to happen much faster than before.

Visual Storytelling is not only telling a story to someone, but it's about trying to create and organize an experience for the public in a way they so they can identify themselves with it. The communication strategy is only effective when the medium chosen has the appropriate characteristics to do so. 


Samsung Event



What about you? Are you only telling a story or are you creating a full experience? With which brands do you identify yourself with the most and which ones don’t communicate with you at all? Tell us about your own experiences and opinions on Twitter!

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