Jun 26

Storytelling through Design

Many are intimidated by design, whether it’s personalizing your resume or creating a brochure for your company, it can be a daunting task. However, when feeling overwhelmed with a design project, I like to remember it’s another form of storytelling — just with different characteristics than when writing fiction, poetry or a feature news article.

Manipulating colors to evoke emotion and selecting shapes to create texture and movement are just a couple of components that work together to catch the viewer’s eye, ultimately informing your reader of an event, program or new initiative.

Seeing design in the perspective of a story introduces a new way to demonstrate an organization’s innovation and key competencies. Take annual reports, for example. While important information, a 20-paged black-and-white booklet in an 11 Times New Roman font is hardly an engaging read. However, adding color, image, shape and font variety gives your business a more professional, polished look (adding to your credibility) and keeps your reader not only informed, but excited about your accomplishments over the previous year. Yes, design can do all that!

Here are seven tips if you’re looking to integrate design into your work, but have felt uncertain or overwhelmed about how it all comes together:


1. Create your content

Before getting started, be sure to define your audience, purpose, message and context — they all rely on one another to tell a story worth listening to or looking at. Content should always come before design so work through your copy and photo selection first. You can always tweak slightly when you get into the design process, if needed. Additionally, filing all the pieces in one place will keep you organized, on task and prevent you from wasting time tracking every variable down.


2. Get Inspired & Sketch It Out

Once you’ve defined the situation, surf the web for designs that match your goals and begin drawing out different versions. Utilizing Pinterest to gather inspiration, similar projects and pictures that line up with your form AND function will keep you interested and set you up for success. You’ll also have plenty of ideas to fall back on if you get stuck.


3. Know Your Brand

Before officially beginning to create your own work, make sure you have a firm grasp on your brand, including colors, typefaces and design elements. Embrace the opportunity to build on your brand and keep it looking crisp, professional and on message.


4. Be Aware of Your Resources

Copyright is real, people, and in 2019, graphics — and high res ones at that — are critical. Thankfully, there are many free resources out there if you don’t have access to custom photography. Pixabay is great for stock images, while Canva is an intuitive tool to add aid in designing a social media post or event graphic.


5. Keep It Simple

There’s no need to jam-pack a layout — effective design should naturally lead the eye from one piece of information to the next. When there’s too much going on, the viewer’s mind may become confused – losing your message along the way. Keep design principles in mind like the appropriate use of negative space and creating a hierarchy with typography. You’ll give the viewer the information they need while still keeping the story entertaining.


6. Step Away

Similar to Lisa’s last blog on proofing, stepping away from a project you’re close to allows you to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. It can also help you understand and internalize constructive criticism without getting defensive, which makes for a more productive conversation. Really, a well-told story is hardly ever in its first draft.


7. Good Design Takes Time

This is just the honest truth. Searching for the perfect picture, selecting the appropriate leading or constructing a visual element are seemingly small decisions, but may consume more time than you care to admit. However, taking time to find the ideal combination of elements to get your message across will certainly be a great investment in the end.


As a bonus, I’d like to mention that one of my favorite parts of designing is the ability to listen to music or an audiobook without being distracted (or starting to type the lyrics.) Vibing to someone else’s creativity while being so yourself is a great experience — only second to holding that end product in your hands, feeling the paper and ink in all its glory.


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