The power of storytelling through design

The power of brand storytelling through design

Brand storytelling evokes an emotional reaction, while also incorporating facts about a business. We’ve moved way past the traditional marketing technique of stating, “Our product is the best, therefore you should buy it!” Now, people want to know why it’s the best, how it’s produced and who are the creators behind this product.

Why do they want to know? Because people love a good story.

Brand stories don’t have to be overly elaborate. Aim for simple, yet meaningful. Folks love a memorable narrative that captivates their attention. Whether you are a first-time entrepreneur in the preliminary stages of your business, a small business owner or preparing yourself for a rebrand, storytelling can enhance the way your audience engages with your product or business. Here’s how you can harness the power of brand storytelling through design.

Branding is all about storytelling

colorful brand identity design

Storytelling and design work closely together to tell your brand’s story. Brand identity design by wilndr via 99designs by Vista.

Branding is both an idea and an image that people have of a product, service, or company. Storytelling affects your audience by tying the idea and image together—in a visceral way.

Champion a story to get folks talking about your business. Remember, oral histories and folklore withstood time because communities loved sharing the narratives. With a good story, your audience moves from being admirers to habitual consumers who speak highly of your business and truly believe in you. That said, storytelling can even alleviate marketing expenses by boosting word of mouth.

People remember great stories and also great design. Branding works best when a company’s name, logo and visuals trigger a combination of emotional and physical reactions that evoke feelings of how a business should make them feel. For instance, when you see the Starbucks siren logo, you should have a physical craving for their coffee and an emotional connection to their mission of bringing high-quality coffee to everyone.

Brand storytelling and design intimately work together to direct the way in which people interact with your brand.

How to tell a brand story

Brand storytelling for your venture should be intuitive and fun—not overwhelming.

Start by identifying the key ingredients of your brand, and then elaborate on them. For example, Apple defined its core brand story as user-friendly, good-looking design and simplicity. They tell that story through their whole brand design, using a minimalist logo, product design, packaging, UX and UI.

Here are 4 simple steps to help you start thinking like an author of your business’s brand story:

1. Identify your story

How do you know what story to tell? Think about what made you want to start your business in the first place. Integrate that passion into your story.

Start creating a formal summary of what you value most and turn that into your mission statement. Your mission statement should also encompass the following:

  • Your product or service
  • Your target audience
  • Your location
  • Your industry
  • Your values
  • Why you’re different

Your mission statement doesn’t have to state all the listed points above, but these categories will serve as a stepping stone to formulating your story. If there is something special about where you are geographically located, emphasize it. If you target a very niche audience, name them. Only include details that would help spread the word about your business and evoke emotional connections.

The Village Butcher logos below are a great example of evoking a story of accessibility, community and quality. Established in 2018, the brand specializes in craft butchery, fresh seafood, deli and BBQ. By using the word “village” in its brand name and listing its offerings in its logo, its brand story brings out its artisan quality.

The Village Butcher logos

Great use of evoking the story of local proximity and community access. By indra kh via 99designs by Vista.

Your brand is so much more than the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why). You might have a cause-based brand. Or need to highlight certain values. Emphasize and embed those in your story. And remember: not every brand’s story appeals to everyone. Stay true to your audience and your brand identity.

Take the rebranding of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign with Colin Kaepernick, for example.

Via Nike

Nike took a stance on a political issue and rooted it in its brand identity. They took the risk with an understanding that not everyone will share the same ideologies. This generated a new story for the brand and one that focuses on a target audience that is equally as passionate about the cause.

Or check out Mad Pepper’s design for Given hand wash. This brand uses hand wash, an essential sanitary tool, to support the mission of helping people around the world gain access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Given Hand Wash Label Design

Integrating social environmental causes into the brand story and design. By Mad Pepper via 99designs by Vista.

The simple (and clean) packaging design integrates the product name, the natural ingredients and the tagline, “Giving back…naturally.” Together, these design elements tell a story about using nature to give back to the communities in need.

2. Research your competitors

Check out companies who are in your industry. How does your story differ from theirs? How does their brand storytelling work and what design elements do they use to tell their story?

Let’s take a moment to compare these two coffee brands: 205 Degrees and Office Coffee Supply.

205 Degrees is dialed into the cultural narrative of Nicaragua by highlighting cultural symbols of people and coffee in their packaging. The brand features very bold, bright and intricate packaging that makes the coffee stand out from the typical hues of green and brown coffee packaging.

Office Coffee Supply champions the story of being the coffee of choice for offices. Designer Ludibes pulls together the relationship between coffee and the workplace through the joining of the paperclip and coffee cup in the logo. The minimalist design elevates this brand of coffee to be the perfect reliable no-fuss office roast

3. Figure out what you’ll need

Start building a project summary of assets you think would best help you tell your brand story—and don’t get stuck with a linear approach. List any assets that you might need: “I am looking to spread my business through a website. I need the following assets to do so: logo, photographs, and graphics.” Think about the current stage of your company and where you would want to go in the future. Be strategic about the channels you’ll use to tell your story.

Let’s take a look at designer Laurra’s website design for Handmade Soap Club’s story as it is shown in its logo and imagery. The brand’s mission is to produce soap with chemical-free, all-natural, pure ingredients. Its logo includes a symbol of an herb, which refers to the natural ingredients it uses. Additionally, its brand name “Handmade” is in a handwritten font to tie in the personal craftsmanship behind the product

Handmade Soap Club

Visual storytelling for websites by Laurra via 99designs by Vista.

The brand imagery on the website stays true to the brand’s mission and creates an additional layer of trust. Photographs echo the same “natural” message, including snippets of ingredients and shots of the product wrapped in handmade packaging. Graphics follow the handmade aesthetic and delicate lines of the logo.

Brands that understand their message don’t leave room for consumers to question the integrity of their business. They control the narrative and how their audience engages with them. In this case, Handmade Soap Club presented its dedication to its mission with a design that reinforces trust with its audience.

4. Tell your brand story through look and feel

After you establish what assets you need to start with, decide how you want your story to be told with keywords, photographs of inspiration, symbols, and colors that evoke the feeling of your brand. This will help streamline the communication between you and the designer when it comes to designing your brand. Be careful with references of symbols and colors that you choose to evoke within your design to tell your story. You don’t want to miss out on a potential consumer.

From there, you can work with a designer to consistently carry your brand storytelling through all of your designs. Audiences look for consistency. Strong, consistent visuals will have individuals believe that a brand has done their careful research in presenting itself with a certain image and standard that matches its story. This is your chance to tell your brand story through the look and feel of your brand design, so make the most of it.

You’re the author of your story, a designer can make it come to life

You know what your story is. You’ve gathered all the data you need regarding your business. You’ve weighed the importance of your core values and analyzed what would make the most impact on your brand. Now it’s time to meet with a designer to bring your story to life.

Brand storytelling is nothing without the right design. Let your design do the work of making your brand memorable for generations to come. Check out this article for more branding tips.

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About the author

Nicole Solis-Sison is a creative director for Matter Media Group, an influencer management firm. She has also developed virtual and augmented reality applications for companies like Gap and Google. Find Nicole on Instagram