Tips and tricks for visual storytelling

By Kayla Castro

Linda Watson, Marwan Mansour and Josée Hunter wave bye after the Virtual Learning Series session on visual storytelling
Linda Watson, Marwan Mansour and Josée Hunter wave bye after the Virtual Learning Series session on visual storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful strategy that allows government to push the boundaries and communicate in unique, innovative and personal ways.

Last July, Linda Watson and Marwan Mansour, from the Canada Revenue Agency’s Creative Services Team, delivered a Virtual Learning Series presentation where they shared their experience in the art of visual storytelling, and how it’s more than just creating pretty visuals. Some key takeaways from Linda and Marwan’s Virtual Learning Series Event on Visual Storytelling include:  

#1 Make it fun

Illustrations or fun photography is a great way to start the visual storytelling process, to draw in your audience. Using visuals with memorable or catchy taglines helps tell the story and convey the overall message.

#2 Themes & memes

Use themes, memes and puns to your advantage! For instance, if the message you want to communicate on social media happens to fall on World Emoji Day, what better way to celebrate than to use emojis to tell your story.

#3 Series

Series are a different approach to visual storytelling that uses a common look so that the audience recognizes it and keeps bringing them back. For example, the CRA used a comic book pop-art type approach, which incorporates colour and interesting visuals to draw in the audience.

#5 Take risks

Be confident in your ability to use new or different approaches; it is the only way to progress and push things forward. Linda’s advice on risk-taking in storytelling, “this is the thing about taking a risk, we don’t usually take a lot of risks with things that are more critical, but we do take risks with things where we can do something new and put it out there and see how it does.

#6 Data is your friend

Use data to support your ideas. What is important about visual storytelling is that when designers create images, they are using research or information from a communication plan to produce the visuals so that the approach is evidence-based. Data is a great way to convince your audience, and when paired with a great visual, it is a perfect strategy to show your results and communicate your message.

#7 Keep it simple

A challenging aspect of visual storytelling is turning complex ideas, text and content into a message that fits into a one-piece visual. Marwan explains this process, “You don’t need to be overly descriptive, you just need to be very prescriptive in the words that you are choosing. So that each word holds meaning and has a reason for being there.

#8 Just be casual

Taxes can be daunting. There’s a lot of complicated language in taxes, and it’s something that we were trying to make a little bit more approachable for people,” said Linda.

To that end, last year, the CRA launched a new series during tax season, using short, fun videos to share tax tips and help Canadians understand their taxes, credits and benefits.

For the full virtual learning series event, visit: Visual Storytelling-More Than Making it Pretty.

Check out these excellent tools and resources on storytelling:

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