Visual Storytelling: 10 Basic Guidelines

visual storytelling.jpg
(image source)

By now you probably know how important images are to marketing.  But you may not know that you can tell a story with just a single image.  Ernesto Olivares has come up with 10 rules that will help you with visual storytelling.

Show, Don’t Tell

If you can show someone using your product or service, people will be more interested than if you just list different features that it has.  People find talking to be boring, but if you show them something, they will feel more engaged.

Context is Everything

Showing things in context will help you not need to use as many words.  You don’t need to tell people things that are obvious to them just by looking at the context of the situation.

Show People

You should always show people that your audience can relate to.  Instead of telling the story of your business, tell the story of the people involved.

Be Personal, Be True

Share part of yourself with your audience.  People are moved by true stories because they show humanity.  How something unique about yourself and people will be compelled by it.

Show Conflict

Without conflict, there is no story.  Show someone who wants or needs something and show what they have to do to get it.  If this is in the context of marketing, it has to be a conflict that your audience is familiar with or they won’t be interested.  They have to be able to relate to it.

Reveal Hidden Things

Show the audience something they don’t get to see every day.  This could mean going behind the scenes of your business and showing things through the eyes of your employees.


Don’t try to include too many details.  Just focus on the main point.  Use the rule of thirds.  This means dividing the screen up into thirds.  Where the lines cross are the focal points our eyes are drawn to.  Put the most important elements of your images in these spots.

rule of thirds
(image source)

Keep Moving

Let your images show some sort of motion.  If you aren’t showing your audience motion, you’re showing them that there is no conflict.  If there is no conflict, your audience will lose interest.

Don’t be Obvious

Surprise your audience.  If they are surprised, they will be more engaged in your content.  Don’t do the first thing that comes to mind.

Teach Something

Teach your audience something that relates to the message that your brand tries to convey.  Decide what you want to teach your audience and then find a way to do it in an entertaining way.

Visual Storytelling Success

One brand that has been extremely successful with visual storytelling is ModCloth.  The images on their website give off a sense of adventure, all while showcasing their clothing.  All of the images have a similar theme tying them together, rather than each one trying to tell their own story.

(image source)

It can seem overwhelming to get started with visual storytelling.  But with a little bit of practice, you can find success with this type of marketing.

4 thoughts on “Visual Storytelling: 10 Basic Guidelines

  1. It’s good that you pointed out that conflict is necessary. Without a conflict of some sort, there would be no desire for the product or service provided.


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