Use blog illustrations and visual storytelling in business to use less words and evoke a more human response
Business websites and blogs have shifted so dramatically in the last decade we now can’t differentiate one blog or website from the other. The human eye can now conglomerate business graphics into categories and gloss over them easily without ever receiving all of the information intended to get to them.
Visual storytelling is new for business. Businesses are used to paying a few bucks for stock photography and calling it a day, but some stock photos, especially the ones that are overused across the web, can actually take away from your content rather than lifting it up. Your readers see an image that they’ve seen on a different blog and their brain tells them this is something they’ve also read before.
So how do we connect with consumers in a meaningful way? Where do images come from that make consumers stop and pay attention? The answers to those questions are complex, there is no doubt about that. However, in my opinion, the answers have become more fun to work around.
How visual storytelling humanizes a business
In 2010 I had just began my first ever webcomic series titled “Hipster Picnic” and it was moving along with success. I had envisioned the comic to be a weekly comic strip that would combine snarky hipster satire with zombie fiction. I was quite happy with the results. The comic had some legs and as I trudged through those first several weeks I made a startling discovery about the role that illustration and imagery play into business.
It was on my eighth page of work that I decided to veer away from character establishment and look at a local business.
Recently my friends and I had been frequenting Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop. Lucha was a small place that had a limited menu of typical taco shop items twisted into original creations and an environment filled with wall to wall Lucha Libre references and decorations.
When I first attended the shop in early 2010, the shop was barely frequented by patrons. By the time I went back for second helpings in October of that same year, the line to get in was so long we decided to go elsewhere. Apparently Lucha had become the darling of several local television stations and word had spread of it’s tasty goods.
A panel from the Hipster Picnic webcomic “Long Lucha Lines”
I promptly made a comic about Lucha and it’s long lines.
When I posted it to my Facebook page it became an immediate hit, and not because of the fact that it was a well done comic but because I tagged the Lucha Libre Facebook page. They changed their Facebook page to the comic image and even wrote me a note saying I could come in any time for a free burrito. The image was re-shared by a plethora of Lucha fans/patrons and I even received new readers for my fledgling comic.
The art of visual storytelling worked, even in business. Especially in business.
It was then that I began to understand that imagery and advertising had shifted. In the early 2000’s I attended a degree program for graphic design. In 2003 the adage was to design around the business, that imagery had to be clearly autonomous and specially designed for the business. But something happened in between 2003 and 2010 that changed the shape of graphic design: Design tools became accessible to everyone.
When the tools of the trade became accessible to everyone, it upped the ante for businesses to create meaningful taglines to rise above the rest. Gone were the simplistic days of Nike’s “Just do it!”. As Seth Godin has purported in his famous Tribes TED talk, “It’s about leading and connecting people and ideas.” Meaning exists when we create these kinds of narratives for the patronage to connect to on multiple levels. If anything, the success of the Lucha Libre comic proves this to be true.
What happened was that the comic effectively formed a narrative within a narrative.
First it was a genuine creation for my own webcomic needs. Which, for all intents and purposes, we purely artistic. This is a huge plus in the web because there are so many people out to make a buck, and it is hard to tell.
Second the business of Lucha Libre was now becoming a narrative in and of itself within the local community. When they combined something magical happened, not only for me, but for the business owners of the shop and the shop patrons equally. “Look there is a comic about my favorite taco shop! The lines are long, har har.”
This means the patrons, who are in on the joke, now are able to laugh at it together. An advertisement that was never intended to be one, that doesn’t feel like one, now has become one.
The question is for business people right now: what kinds of narratives are your visuals forming for your consumers? Is it a meaningful one or an average one?