5 Love-Worthy Aspects About the Visual Storytelling Process by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

5 Love-Worthy Aspects About the Visual Storytelling Process (That You’ll Adore As Much As I Do)

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson
Feb 20 · 5 min read

As a visual storyteller, I often find myself sorting through a brand’s fragmented content (the latter being a phrase I’ve coined to describe all the disparate snippets of video, images, content, branding, and marketing assets available) to:

  • stitch together new visual narratives completely from scratch,

OR

  • breathe fresh life into existing or dated narratives.

If you’re into the power of images and relish how much they can shift minds and move hearts (especially when paired with the right message, language, or copy), then the process of visual storytelling is one you’ll find both exhilarating and deeply rewarding.

At least, that’s how I feel about it :)

And as I dissect my own personal process for visual storytelling (shared below), I’ve come to realize how much I love the process of visual storytelling as much as its outcomes.

Here’s my visual storytelling macro-process, with each phase highlighting one love-worthy aspect deserving affection :)

(1) Visual discovery

Like with any project, there’s a period of exciting discovery when you find yourself pouring through your own notes, sifting through print outs of this or that, shuffling through books, highlighting passages, doodling diagrams, and more. These activities, of course, are combined with the more formal discovery process where you review a brand’s collateral, creative briefs, and other style guide or marketing-specific materials. The goal is to amass inspirational information and organize it in a way conducive to theme exploration, ideation, and build up.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #1: Your visual and messaging stashes will inspire multiple aha! moments, each one inching you closer and closer to the right mix of metaphors, metonyms, abstract ideas, and impactful language that will visually accentuate whatever message, narrative, or opinion you’ve been tasked to pictorially create or enhance.

(2) Vision

Inevitably, as you find yourself neck-deep in Pinterest pins, mood boards, color palettes, hashtag research, oceans of notes, sketches, papers, magazine clippings, and more, you’ll start your rough drafting work, where you’ll ideate numerous ideas and creative direction options in line with a client’s visual storytelling goals.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #2: As you hone in on which visual storytelling possibilities are more feasible than others (limits to budget, resources, and time are always lurking and always influence your creative recommendations one way or another), you’ll eventually lock down your aesthetic concepts and supporting ideas!

(3) Translations

Once you’ve narrowed down your creative storytelling angles, it’s time to “translate” them into various presentable formats. Sometimes, this may include a bit of storyboarding, especially if a client needs help visually breaking down, step by step, how their brand narrative will unfold. Other times, it may include showcasing key aspects of the (still-in-draft-mode) visual story as social media posts to help clients “see” what how the narrative may appear on branded channels. Long- and short-form translations of the visual story are also helpful to clients who need to actually see how abridged or tailored aspects of their narrative will display across different platforms. Last but hardly least, you’ll have to eventually translate the highlights of your visual story into a more formal presentation for key stakeholders to review and consider.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #3: This is where you get to mold and shape your ideas, literally, into presentable formats to glean first impressions. At this step, you’re physically creating with your hands (and tech tools), heart, and mind to produce something rather tangible to share with others.

(4) Pictorial assembly

At some point after client collaborations, feedback, and approvals, you’ll get the green light to proceed with your visual storytelling ideas. This is one of my favorite moments in the visual storytelling process because the client is usually pretty pumped by this point, which in turn, will find you just as pumped to dive in and get started with the next step of the visual storytelling process: “pictorial assembly.” In other words, it’s time to stitch all your visual ideas together.

Sometimes, this stitching can be quite an endeavor. Maybe there’s professional photography of film production involved. Maybe there’s set design, wardrobe, or props and accessories needed. And these usually require multiple shoots depending on how much visual storytelling is needed. Other times, the visual storytelling process is far more compact and may boil down to the assembly of simpler visual assets, such as specific visual language and associated graphics for use on social media or perhaps a series of illustrations (and related captions) that tell the same story in their own way.

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #4: Here, you get to execute, put it ALL together, and totally make it your own, on behalf of your client. I can’t put into words how exciting it is to see your creative input breathe life into your visual storytelling concepts, copywriting, and drawings that, for some time now, have mostly existed on paper and inner thoughts.

(5) The Reveal

At the end of the visual storytelling process, your work isn’t only revealed to the client (who will ideally be over the moon with the outcomes); its ultimate reveal will be to the client’s audiences at large (as well as to the unknown masses beyond).

❤️ Love-worthy Aspect #5: Knowing that your visual storytelling direction, ideas, and product will be consumed by multiple, vast segments of defined and undefined populations is truly the most exciting part of this visual storytelling journey.

So there you go!

While “The Reveal” part of the visual storytelling process is usually the one that receives the lion’s share of affection and attention, the meat and potatoes aspects of each phase of the visual storytelling process (my steps 1–4 above) can be as equally gratifying and satisfying as well.

Ultimately, there’s just *something* wonderfully-uplifting about the visual transformation process of a brand narrative. In the end, creating visual narratives that make people (customers, clients, audiences, target audiences, employees, etc. are all people first, in my view) feel (e.g., interested, vested, connected, informed, and even entertained, as examples) is what amazing visual storytelling is all about.

Total side note

While the word visual implies the use of images or video content), visual storytelling doesn’t always have to incorporate either. I realize most of the best practice advice out there does encourages the use of visuals, and I don’t disagree. However, it’s important to underscore that “visual language” (descriptive, written content without the physical aid of pictures) can also help someone to imagine what something might look, feel or be like. Visual language, when exceptionally well written, can be just as powerful as the use of images in terms of conveying ideas. How many fantastic books, in fact, have been written only with words and not even one picture, right?! In such cases, the author of the words is relying on metaphors or descriptive language to convey his or her ideas and leaving the reader to do his or her own visual interpretation(s).

Thanks for reading!

Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

If you enjoyed reading this, I’d appreciate some clap love so more people will see this post. Thanks! 👏

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Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

Written by

creative strategist. seeker. incurable bibliophile. #amwriting. media psychology, ma • illustration, mfa • TW @mayrarmcpherson • IG @mayrarmcpherson

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