The What and Why of Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling can help anyone get a complex message across in a more accessible format. According to NewsCred and Getty Images, the four principles to keep in mind when utilizing visual storytelling are authenticity, sensory, relevancy, and archetype.Of the four principles listed above, authenticity is key. With the power of the Internet also comes the quick ability to fact check anything that seems fishy. People are becoming more and more critical about what they see on the Internet, and that is keeping brands and organizations more honest.

According to an article posted on the the Non-Profit Mar Community website, the typical modern human attention span is down to 8 seconds. This means that we are not only looking to get the quick gist of a story when reading news articles, but it also means we are absorbing lots of information very quickly. This is where visual storytelling excels. A brand needs to convey not only their mission to the world, which is often a long-winded explanation, but it also must stay in the attention of the public. The average person is not going to seek out a company’s website and read through pages of legally worded documentation, but they will absorb the visual images the company posts on social media. It is through these images that the brand must plead their case for support and also demonstrate their successes as an organization.

Visual storytelling is not the new phenomenon, but is has certainly gained in popularity with the shortening attention span. A blog called Community Nation posted an article back in 2007 outlining the key components to an infographic, and these still hold true to the visual storytelling medium overall:

1. It’s a visual explanation that helps you more easily understand, find or do something.
2. It’s visual, and when necessary, integrates words and pictures in a fluid, dynamic way.
3. It stands alone and is completely self-explanatory.
4. It reveals information that was formerly hidden or submerged.
5. It makes possible faster, more consistent understanding.
6. It’s universally understandable.

Crowdsouring and Crowdfunding

I am a huge fan of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter.com. This enables pretty much anyone in the world to turn their idea into a reality. Before crowdfunding, it took a great deal of personal capital to get even the smallest company or idea off the ground, leaving much of the innovation to the elite. With crowdfunding the public are able to not only able to buy in to a product of service they believe in, but often those campaigns usually create crowdsourcing opportunities during the funding process. This means a great deal in the board game collectors community, because the worst thing is a beautifully made game that has a terrible play mechanic, or vise versa. Having the ability to contribute improvements or comments in the early stages of a product could mean a much higher quality product that better meets the needs of the market in the end.

Now that we have a better understanding of why visual storytelling is important and how to go about creating valuable visual content, let’s look at a couple examples of Kickstarter campaigns that have utilized this medium to varying degrees.

War and Pieces

War and Pieces has become a quick favorite on Kickstarter, more than doubling their goal of $50,000 in just 3 days. This is outstanding for a company’s first Kickstarter campaign, and it likely has a lot to do with the amount of visual data they included on the campaign page.

In line with the four principles cited above, the photos of the creator playing the game with their family gives authenticity to the campaign, and truly speaks volumes. It shows that this game is suitable for a wide age range and is fun to play with the family.

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Sensory can be seen throughout the campaign, but especially in their simplified version of the rules though hilarious gifs. These gifs are quick and eye-catching. Gifs are great for catching you attention and flashing a lot of information in a short amount of time. While it doesn’t fully explain the rules of the game, I get the idea and it drew my interest into reading further into the actual rules written out underneath.

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Relevancy is essential when you are trying to not only get the attention of potential backers, but also encourage them to invite their friends to support the campaign as well! This campaign utilizes a gamified visual to entice their backers to go above and beyond simply throwing money at the game. I have seen this same method used in other game campaigns, and it really shows that they know their audience. No gamer can shy away from a challenge. Even the quests in this challenge are relevant to the game, showing the campaign’s dedication to the theme/joke.

Capture3.PNG

Lastly, the archetype of the visual storytelling is not terribly obvious except in the background story about how the game came into fruition.  This image is all I need to understand the creators of this game. Shooting a flaming catapult is high up on my bucket list too, and since I don’t have a life-size catapult, this game will have to do.

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In the case of this Kickstarter campaign, the images have told a story that is compelling, entertaining, and worth an investment. This usage of visual storytelling is likely how this company was able to drastically surpass their goals so quickly in their their very first campaign.

OutLawed! 

OutLawed! from Ryan Cowler and Green Couch Games! also uses visual storytelling to a lesser extent, but and this could be impacting their backer stats. Even though the company has launched 8 successful Kickstarter campaigns already, building a name for themselves on the site, their backer numbers and rates are much lower and slower than those of War and Pieces.

The most impressive (and really only) use of visual storytelling this campaign uses is in the explanation of the rules and game play. This graphic is detailed, easy to read/follow, and sticks with the outlaw theme of the game.

Capture6.PNG

 

While this does have the sensory and relevancy appeal, the campaign page could really benefit from more of the personal touches as demonstrated through the images used throughout the War and Pieces campaign. The backers want to know who they are handing their hard earned money over to, and the simple bio is just not personable enough for a crowdfunding site.

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Conclusions

Until humans are able to plug into the Internet and absorb information instantly, the visual storytelling medium is the closest thing we are going to have to meeting the shortened attention span of the public. A Kickstarter campaign is a beautiful opportunity for anyone looking to launch their dream out into the world, but without reaching the market audience in the way that they see things. Whether that be through the gamification of the stretch goals or the personable touches of family photos, the images are key in selling the product and gaining support from backers. It can’t be said definitively, but a conclusion can be drawn from this analysis that authentic visual storytelling gives an edge to a crowdfunding campaign.

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