5 Love-Worthy Aspects About the Visual Storytelling Process
Photo: Jude Beck on Unsplash / Design: Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

5 Love-Worthy Aspects About the Visual Storytelling Process

Here are my overarching visual storytelling milestones, with each phase highlighting a love-worthy aspect deserving the adoration of visual communicators far and wide:

(1) Visual discovery

Like with any project, there’s a period of exciting discovery when you find yourself pouring through notes, sifting through printouts of this or that, shuffling through books, highlighting passages, doodling diagrams, and more. These research activities, of course, are combined with the more formal discovery process where you review a brand’s collateral, creative briefs, and other style guide or marketing-specific materials. The goal is to amass inspirational information and organize it in a way conducive to theme exploration, ideation, and build up.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #1: Your visual and messaging stashes will inspire multiple aha! moments, each one inching you closer and closer to the right mix of metaphors, metonyms, abstract ideas, and impactful language that will visually accentuate whatever message, narrative, or opinion you’ve been tasked to pictorially create or enhance.

(2) Percolated vision

Inevitably, as you find yourself neck-deep in Pinterest pins, mood boards, color palettes, hashtag research, oceans of notes, sketches, papers, magazine clippings, and more, you’ll start your rough drafting work, where you’ll ideate numerous ideas and creative direction options in line with a client’s visual storytelling goals.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #2: As you hone in on which visual storytelling possibilities are more feasible than others (limits to budget, resources, and time are always lurking and influencing your creative recommendations one way or another), you’ll eventually lock down your aesthetic concepts and supporting ideas.

(3) Aesthetic translations

Once you’ve narrowed down your creative storytelling angles, it’s time to translate them into various presentable formats. Sometimes, this may include a bit of storyboarding, especially if a client needs help visually breaking down, step by step, how their brand narrative will unfold. Other times, it may include showcasing key aspects of the (still-in-draft-mode) visual story as social media posts to help clients see how the narrative may appear on branded channels. Long- and short-form renditions of the visual story are also helpful to clients who need to actually see how abridged or tailored aspects of their narrative will display across different platforms. Last, but hardly least, you’ll have to eventually translate aspects of your visual story into a more formal presentation for key stakeholders to review and consider.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #3: This is where you get to mold and shape your ideas, literally, into presentable formats to glean first impressions. At this step, you’re physically producing something visually tangible to share with others.

(4) Pictorial assembly

After client collaborations, feedback, and approvals, you’ll get the green light to proceed with your visual storytelling ideas. This is one of my favorite moments in the visual storytelling process because the client is usually pretty pumped by this point, which in turn, will find you just as pumped to dive in and get started with the next step of the visual storytelling process: pictorial assembly. In other words, it’s time to stitch all your visual ideas together.

Sometimes, this stitching can be quite an endeavor. Maybe there’s professional photography or film production involved. Maybe there’s set design, wardrobe, or props and accessories needed. And these usually require multiple shoots depending on how much visual storytelling may be needed. Other times, the visual storytelling process is far more compact and may boil down to the assembly of simpler visual assets, such as visual language and associated graphics for use on social media or perhaps a series of illustrations (and related captions) that tell the same story in a fresh and vibrant way.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #4: Here, you get to execute, put all the pieces together, and make them your own, on behalf of your client. I can’t put into words how exciting it is to see your creative input breathe life into your visual storytelling concepts, copywriting, and drawings that, for some time now, have mostly existed on paper, presentation slides, or your inner thoughts.

(5) The reveal (and beyond)

At the end of the visual storytelling process, your work isn’t only revealed to the client (who’ll ideally be over the moon with the outcomes); its ultimate reveal will be to the client’s chosen audiences at large (and to the masses well beyond).

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #5: Knowing that your visual storytelling direction, ideas, and product will be consumed by multiple, vast segments of defined and undefined populations is truly the most exciting part of the visual storytelling journey.

So there you go.

While the reveal part of the visual storytelling process is usually the one that receives the lion’s share of affection and attention, the meat and potatoes aspects of each phase of the visual storytelling process (steps 1–4 above) can be as equally gratifying as well.

A small word about visual language

While the word visual implies the use of images or video content), visual storytelling doesn’t always have to incorporate either. I realize most of the best practice advice does encourage the use of visuals, and I don’t disagree. However, it’s important to underscore that visual language (descriptively written content without the physical aid of pictures) can also help one to imagine what something might look, feel, or be like. Visual language, when exceptionally well written, can be just as powerful as the use of images in terms of conveying important ideas.

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Thanks for reading!

I write about human-technology interaction, mediated technologies, cyberpsychology, positive media psychology, narrative psychology, social psychology, brand psychology, transmedia storytelling, neuro design, behavior design, and so much more.

And once in a very blue moon, I’ll also creatively write about completely random stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with my profession :)

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA
left 🧠: Media Psychologist • Cyberpsychologist • Brand Psychologist
right 🧠: Neurodesigner • Visual Artist • Creative Writer

P.S. Wanna hire me?
Go here to learn more about me, access resumes, see samples, and more.

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