A brief intro to storytelling and the importance of stories

What is Storytelling?

Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.

The desire for storytelling is hardwired in our DNA.

We use stories to spark emotion, make sense of things, and learn.

History of Storytelling

Without history, without chronicled stories, mankind would never learn from his mistakes, would never dream to emulate past heroes, would never see anything but the now. We would be clueless to the past, and therefore helpless for the future.

  • As wars were fought and valiant deeds were done, people needed some way to remember them

  • Stories emerged as a way to preserve the raw emotions and sequence of events

  • Storytellers became valuable, important figures in the community

Why is Storytelling Effective?

Stories open our hearts to a new place, which opens our minds, which often leads to action.

Melinda Gates
Human heart illustration

It's uniquely human

  • Humans are believed to be the only animals that create and tell stories
  • Historians and psychologists believe storytelling is one of the many things that define and bind our humanity
  • Emotional connections are the one thing computers can never replace

Fact selling vs. storytelling

In a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon, researchers sent two versions of a letter asking for donations for a third world country.

  • Version 01

    Shared astounding statistics on the dismal living conditions, the numbers without fresh water, without food, etc.

  • Version 02

    Told a heart wrenching story about a girl who lives in the third world country.

  • Results

    The story-based letter, version two, resulted in 118 percent more dollars donated.

How to Use Storytelling in Digital Design

Your job as a digital storyteller is to be a co-author, crafting the graphic part of the narrative that intertwines with the verbal part of the story. By following similar steps to that of a traditional writer, you’ll be able to design content that makes a lasting impact on your audience.

Human heart illustration

Approach design from a storytelling perspective

  • What’s the story we want to tell?
  • How do we want the story to make people feel?
  • What do we want those feelings to compel people to do?

Digital storytelling best practices

  • Start with the story

    Traditional web design often happens in a silo. Many designs are done before there’s any content—and as such, don’t tie closely to the words on the page. Start with a story (literally – i.e. a storyboard) and develop visuals and words hand in hand.

  • Build a visual arc that follows the narrative arc

    In the rising tension phase of the story, for example, use more dramatic, impactful imagery. During the conclusion, choose visuals that resolve tension and wrap up loose ends.

  • Set the storytelling pace

    Stories capture our hearts and attention by slowly and carefully unfolding details. To set a similar pace, use unique animations to build anticipation rather than revealing everything at once.

  • Create a visual thread that weaves throughout the story

    Stories often involve characters that provide a thread through the entire narrative. Your visual stories should use recurring design elements that weave in and out of the overall design to ground the reader in the story the same way a character’s perspective does.