In the world of design communication, designers are no longer limited to merely addressing the area of graphics and graphics alone; in fact, the boundaries between conventional design disciplines have been blurring rapidly.Whether it’s taking the reins on content creation, website coding, and even interior or product design, the work designers are now expected to deliver far transcends the boundaries of what they were taught to study in school.
Similarly, the realm of public relations — once governed by the likes of wordsmiths, hard data, and those in favour of the written word — is starting to see a change. While traditional PR materials such as press releases, briefing books, and the occasional byline remain solid tools of the trade, recognising our audience’s thirst for visual content is more than ever imperative to cut through the clutter.
We are, at the very essence, visual creatures. As children, we learn to identify animals, colours and the faces of those who shower us with love well before learning to pronounce and spell the names of these people and things. Allow me to illustrate:
From the visual, we can instantly grasp that this is a circle much faster than relying on the text to inform us on what’s being described. While text is ultimately useful in conveying the theoretical form of any given idea, nothing drives the point in quite as simply and as powerfully as an image. Pinterest recognised this, and today, the visually orientated nature of this virtual discovery tool remains one of the keys to their success. It banked on the simple idea of giving people – trained to design or otherwise – a visually appealing whilst easy to use platform to discover, post, and talk about ideas, encompassing the spirit of collaborative creativity in a very social and sharable way. You could even say that its heavy reliance on visual content has revolutionised the way we push out and consume information. To date, this idea is valued at USD 11 billion.
Images do more than act as visual references to the stories we’d like to tell. If delivered effectively, it could evoke strong emotions, spark meaningful conversations, and, if the message is powerful enough, go on to inspire change. Working in public relations, we need to acknowledge this impact.Besides developing a deep understanding of the brands we work with, we play a bigger part in crafting their identity than we sometimes realize.Discerning the shift in the storytelling platform from the confines of pure text to the visual stage is pertinent to the way the masses perceive and understand the messages that we’re trying to put across. If we can do it with words, why not go a step further and capture our audience’s attention and imagination with images? And why stop there — what about throwing some videos into the mix?
While we might not have the skillsets or experience to whisk up award-winning visuals in Photoshop, I’d still like to believe that we could choose a bigger role to play in the overall dialogue on shaping brand identity. Given our susceptibility to text and images alike in our current landscape, learning to translate our conversations into the domains of design could pave the way for a better grasp of it, and in turn, allow us to explore a more diverse range of storytelling techniques in our careers.
Much like the polymath designers introduced earlier on in the post, adopting an all-rounded approach in our work, and embracing a versatile way of mapping out our ideas, strategies, and campaigns has become increasingly important in order to satisfy the appetite for information in visual formats. Briefing documents, media factsheets, and company backgrounders prove that we have the hard facts at our fingertips– but to go a step further and introduce a visual element to our materials indicates the commitment to engage audiences on a whole new level.
So! Instead of sticking to sharing dry data about your client to the press, try shipping it off along with an infographic illustrating primary takeaway points. And instead of just sending over a factsheet about a new device, maybe think about also pushing out a short video to give viewers a look at the device behind the scenes.There’s so much more to be gleaned from imagery than just aesthetics, and the success of PR campaigns that utilize these visual storytelling techniques remain a resounding testament to that fact.
Don’t forget to have fun!