Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can Design Tell a Story?

I got into a discussion with a client last night about design and what it means in the grand scheme of things. We originally met to talk about his branding needs. He has a new small business that he's ready to launch in 2011 and needed to talk about his marketing materials. His logo began the discussion and it turned into a small debate. To make a long story short, he believes design is defined as "a way to visualize what doesn't have form yet". I wouldn't disagree with that per se, but I feel design is better defined as a visual communication of a story. In other words design tells a story. What that story is depends on each individual story. Storytelling has been an important part of the human race since prehistoric times. Cave drawings conveyed the many trials, tribulations and stories of those times. The ancient Egyptians left behind countless images on walls and pottery, for example. The Greeks as well. These examples have already created a picture in your head as your reading this and already you can come up with different stories from what you've learned over the years.

The same exists today. Stories are all around us each day, everyday. Some are better than others and everyone has preferences, but think about this... movies, music, and art are just forms of storytelling. Design works the same way. Every company's brand tells the tale of who they are and what they do. It's something that is always at the forefront when I'm designing for a client, especially small business. My client asked me "So what about a vacuum cleaner? Does that have a story?" Sure it does, as the technology has advanced so has the design behind these appliances. Very few vacuum cleaners use those old dusty bags anymore and instead use cyclone air passages to pick up dirt. The industrial designers (such as James Dyson) are telling the story of the greener and more efficient needs of the time.

I say this because whenever you're looking to have something designed whether it be a logo, a website or even a brochure. Make sure the designer is telling your story so it will convey what's important to the businesses and clients you work with.

As a bonus, let's try a little exercise. As you can see above, there are no word or thought balloons present on this design. I wanted the image itself to tell the story. It's titled "Welcome to Earth, Spaceboy". Can you tell me what the story here is?

TB

19 comments:

Heather Fonseca said...

He looks to me like he'd rather be exploring than stuck on earth.

I agree with you, good design tells a story.

Brad Johnson said...

Dude I love that design. He needs to go back to the moon def.

Keyuri Joshi said...

This little space explorer is thinking "darn... I should have listened to my mom and not left orbit".

Fun post Dennis. I think too that both you and your friend are correct. Branding can be a story that isn't yet told.

jweishaar said...

Great points Dennis. The boy is saying "this doesn't look like Kansas Toto" :)

Design definitely tells a story. When I look for images to accompany either an article or a video I am creating, I pay close attention to the congruency of the message/story the image tells and the message in the article or video. Thesaurus.com becomes my friend.

Thanks for sharing your insights :)

Catarina Alexon said...

Agree with you. Design tells a story. Or as they say a picture paints a thousand words.

Long texts will never be able to tell it's story online since hardly anyone will read it.

Sheila Atwood said...

Good graphics and design do tell a story. They stimulate your imagination or help you to relate to things you know.

I think he looks like he is sad and longing to make it to the moon.

Sherryl Perry said...

Spoken as a true designer. You obviously want to design a logo and marketing materials that communicate your client's brand rather than just create something. Hopefully, your client will listen to you. :)

Rob Berman said...

The client is always right unless he is wrong. Design should tell a story or not be there. A logo is a visual cue to a brand.

The caption could read. "What was part 2 of the plan again?"

Rob

Susan Oakes said...

A good design definitely tells a story. Often clients can't see this because they are not clear on the story they want to communicate.

Catherine Lockey said...

Dennis,
I like the way you tell a story about how design tells a story. Well done. Those without an aesthetic sensibility need this kind of instruction before they make a decision.

Tanoshiboy said...

@Keyuri I think that's fair. :)

@Julie Great point. Those images are important.

@Catarina I agree on the long text. No one reads anymore and keeping their attention is a lot harder these days.

@Sheila Relating is a goal definitely.

@Sherryl Yes! Well, he is officially a client! So now I just have to wow him.

@Rob Interesting point. Haha :)

@Susan That's my job is to help them. No charge. Thanks, Susan. :)

@Catherine Thank you, Catherine. What a great compliment. Feel free to share it. :)

sarah said...

A good design tells a story. Logo, Brochures websites all needs a storytelling.. that's why we come in..:P

Jim said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, I was just wondering do you trade featured articles or blog posts. Thanks for sharing your Blog with others. You really share valuable information,

Jeannette Paladino said...

My caption for the photo: "So near, yet so far."

Tanoshiboy said...

@Sarah Exactly!

@Jim Email me at dsalvatier [at] gmail.com and we can talk about that and thanks!

@Jeannette Thanks for dropping by. I'm glad different people have different interpretations.

Tomás Serrano said...

That´s what I like Chaplin and the silent movies´ genius...

Anonymous said...

really an eye opener for me.

- Robson

Dennis Salvatier said...

Robson I wish you would have left a link. I always like to connect with new readers.

Anonymous said...

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!