If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. That saying applies to so many scenarios involving collaboration.
But we really like what it says about storytelling—and the way our agency’s design and content teams work together—closely, constantly— to develop thoughtful and resonating story packages and content campaigns for our clients.
Too often, design and content are siloed. The writer or strategist pulls together a draft and then a designer steps in to whip up some graphics. Done, dusted and off to the next one, right?
If you want results that are just OK … sure.
The trouble is, stories developed this way rarely rise above good to truly great. What’s more, they risk winding up with a disjointed feel; words not really speaking to the design, and vice versa. But when design and content become a conversation … that’s when things really start to shine.
With all of this in mind, we sat down and thought about the many ways that great design—integrated in all the right ways—can level up your content marketing to help tell better, more engaging stories.
And since we always treat the story-development process as a living, evolving dialogue between words and design, we’re also bringing in some snippets of a conversation on this topic between me, a senior editor, and our agency’s creative director Lara Kroeker. Because storytelling is conversation—in the delivery and behind the scenes.
1. It starts your work on solid footing
As hinted above, great storytelling means all hands on deck, right from the start. Your design team should be closely involved in the earliest brainstorming sessions and planning for your story or project; if for no other reason than visual thinkers approach problems differently. It’s worth having those creative-and-colourful brains on board from the beginning.
2. It focuses your strategy
Whether we’re working on our own brand storytelling or our clients’—and whether we’re delivering a complete brand identity, campaign or story package—we always, always start with a strategy that includes key goals, voice and tone protocols, audience personas, and more. A.k.a. whom we’re speaking to, how we’re saying it and what we want to tell them.
With a designer in the room from these early stages, it’s much easier to translate this legwork into a cohesive visual strategy for your story package. Which can act as a “pressure test” for your content strategy—feeding back and making the whole package stronger.
3. It weaves in and reinforces your brand identity
The elements of a visual brand identity flow from the main tools in the designer’s toolbox: colour, typography, photography, icons, illustrations, texture. All of which—if you’ve done your homework—you’ll have refined into a logo, style guide and other elements that uniquely reflect the personality of your brand. Your very own visual dialect, if you will.
And, much the same way your story ideas spring from your high-level content strategy, your overarching brand identity sets up the design dialect you’ll use for storytelling—ensuring that your brand’s “you”-ness shines through in every piece of content you produce. And that every story you produce builds on your brand.
4. It brings out emotion and human connection
The goal of any storytelling is to make your audience feel … some kind of way. And design is such a powerful ally for evoking emotion. A warm colour palette can kindle a cozy and nostalgic vibe, for instance, while cool tones might imbue a sense of calm, or mystery. A playful decorative font can inject whimsy and fun, while a traditional typeface might bring gravitas. And elements such as photos and illustrations can draw out those human connections even further.
Will you choose a serene black and white portrait to accompany your story? A quirky line-art gif? Bold-lined infographic? Well, how do you want your audience to feel? Calm and centred? Amused? Inspired? Great design deepens a story’s emotional beats and makes them reverberate.
5. It adds clarity and hierarchy
When done right, design delivers your story in a format that makes it a breeze for your audience to engage with. Depending on the presentation and structure, your reader should be able to dip in and glean the main points, or dig deeper and soak up every nuance. This is visual hierarchy in a nutshell: effective use of contrast, colour, headlines, white space, type design and more, giving your reader helpful cues about what’s important and what’s secondary, helping them to navigate and digest the story.
Design and content in conversation
If all of this doesn’t make you want to run out and hug a designer, we don’t know what will! Because when it comes to effective storytelling, content may start the conversion, but design is there early to keep it going; deepen it, brighten it, and make it shine. By working together closely, from the start, your design and content teams are able to do their jobs more effectively, powerfully captivating your audience—and engaging them deeply in the conversation, too.
Looking for great design—and exceptional storytelling?
Let’s talk. Our team is small but mighty, working with purpose-driven leaders and teams every day to create smart strategy and to craft premium content truly representative of your brand and values. We’d love to learn more about your brand’s goals and purpose, and how we can translate that into storytelling that resonates with your audience. Get in touch and let’s start a conversation.
Or, hey, check out our course about online brand design—giving you the guidance and tools you need to create your visual brand identity in two hours or less.