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Harnessing the Power of Visual Storytelling


Visual storytelling helps an audience make sense of complex data, elicits emotion and increases information retention.

Did you know that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than content?

It’s no wonder that visual storytelling, or the art of using images to tell a story through mediums such as photography, illustration, charts and infographics, has become an important part of communications and marketing these days. Whether meant to stand alone or to enhance content, visual storytelling helps an audience make sense of complex data, elicits emotion and increases information retention.

In this era of digital marketing, visual storytelling is more important than ever. Studies show that readers of visual stories spend longer on the page, bounce less often and are more likely to click on calls to action. Infographics, the mainstay of visual storytelling, are typically shared three times more than any other content.

An infographic in a maize and blue color scheme that has the label "Infrastructure" and the statistics "100+ DEI Leads on U-M Campus" and "120+ DEI Leads at Michigan Medicine"
An infographic carousel developed for the DEI 1.0 Report

So exactly what are the key elements of impactful visual storytelling?

Here are some important points for creating innovative and engaging visual storytelling:

  • Pay attention to your visual narrative
  • Articulate a clear purpose for your message: What is it about? Who is it for? Why is it important?
  • Capture the attention of your audience with an intriguing headline or question
  • Structure your content into short, digestible topics
  • Select a strong font to create meaning in your message
  • Use color and compelling photos to tell your story
A timeline of activities undertaken by Poverty Solutions from 2016-2021
A timeline created for Poverty Solutions

Visualizing Data

One of the most powerful elements of visual storytelling is the capacity to showcase data simply and clearly. Here are some helpful tips about incorporating data in your visual storytelling:

  • Use a line chart when showing changing time trends
  • Use vertical and horizontal bar charts to illustrate an ordered ranking
  • Use a pyramid chart to showcase hierarchical structure
  • Use maps when illustrating a spatial or geographical distribution of data
  • Use a pie chart when you’re referring to distribution