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Visual storytelling for your brand

No Facebook likes. No retweets. A high landing page bounce rate. These can all be symptoms of a low audience attention span and a message that’s not pulling them in. Fortunately, there’s a one-two punch of visuals and storytelling to grab your audience’s attention and to keep it. The latest infographic from Widen explains the value of visual storytelling and how you can start thinking about integrating it into your marketing.
visual storytelling infographic

Visual Storytelling Examples

National Geographic Visual Storytelling Example
We’ve gathered a few examples to illustrate some of the “14 practical tactics you can implement today” mentioned in the infographic.

Keep it simple

Decide what story you want to tell with your images and discern which facts are most important. Few are better at this than National Geographic. While the quality of their photographs is unmatchable by most, their quality of visual storytelling is a goal we can all strive for. Their Instagram account features perfect examples of a powerful image paired with some facts to tell a captivating story.

Show your product in a live setting

Photographs of your product in a live setting alongside related objects helps communicate real-life applications. Nest Thermostat does a great job of walking you through life with their product. The image and copy tell the story of how easy it is to make Nest Thermostat part of your home. Visit to get the full story.Nest Thermostat Visual Storytelling

Find ways to involve fans

Showcase photos and videos your fans create of them using your product. GoPro does a great job of highlighting user-generated content on their website. They feature a video and photo of the day, keeping user engagement active. Winners are rewarded with a discount off their products. Who wouldn’t want to be featured in this awesome user community?Go Pro User Generated Content

You got this!

Use the tips from the infographic and these examples as inspiration for your visual storytelling. Start small and experiment. You’ll figure out what works for your brand and your audience.

Takeaways on collaboration and creativity from Weapons of Mass Creation

Weapons of Mass Creation Design Conference
Weapons of Mass Creation was a great source of inspiration and learning. Hearing how others are growing in their career, solving problems, and working with others was energizing and encouraging. We’ve compiled a list of takeaways on collaboration and creativity for your learning and reflection.

Those who tell stories rule the world, or at the very least, our attention

There were great storytellers at Weapons of Mass Creation. First-time presenters, Michael Rivette and Christina Sharp, shared their experience of establishing a design studio with openness, beautiful slides, and humor. Design great, Michael Bierut, interwound his journey from Garfield Heights to New York City and the problems he and his team have solved with design along the way. Something all presenters had in common was a very real openness and authenticity in their story. Failures were turned into growth and learning. Rejection was turned into opportunity.

Collaboration = Mutual Respect + Communication

Collaboration can be intimidating and hard. Aaron Kaufman and Will Dages illustrated this point through creation of a sandwich. “Make a PB&J sandwich” sounds like clear instructions, right? It becomes apparent when white bread and strawberry jelly are delivered instead of your prefered wheat bread and blackberry jelly.

Mutual respect is the first part of the collaboration equation. Respect your team members expertise as well as their ability to creatively problem solve. By asking the right questions and building a shared vocabulary, designers and developers can work better together. If you’re looking for a place to start, “why?” and “why not?” are questions that help build an understanding of why things are being done that way.

Solution investment

Use this solution investment scale to understand people’s level of investment in a project. Everyone working on a project doesn’t have to have to be at the same level but it’s important to know where people are at.
Obligation: Have to solve
Interest: Want to solve
Belief: Care about solving
Passion: Whatever it takes to solve

Go be you

“Go be you” was a message from Mike Jones. A call to know yourself, be yourself. In terms of brand and marketing, this is your unique value. Don’t be afraid to “follow your weird” and do what you do well. That’s where you’ll find true success anyhow.

Silos are for barns, not businesses

This is a “real issue” when it comes to the act of creating. Designers, developers, and marketers simply can’t work in silos. They need to be in close physical proximity to each other in order to ideate, look, listen, and feel what’s happening around them.

Designers and developers should start together from the beginning of every project for a collaborative space. War rooms are one idea, where teams sit together during the duration of a single project. This allows for consistent feedback throughout the process to alleviate assumptions.

Brainstorm vs. brainwrite

Brainstorms can quickly turn from a collaborative effort into conforming into a strong willed person’s idea. The idea of a brainwrite is to democratize the ideation process. Write down an idea and pass to the left, then add on to everyone’s written ideas. Everyone’s participating and multiple ideas are being expanded upon at once.

Just do it

Ideas are cheap, everyone has ideas. It’s doing the hard work to make ideas happen that counts.

Novice Design Tips for Marketers


Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” – Steve Jobs

There’s no replacement for a good, professional designer, but you might not have the luxury of having one for every project. There are certain things, however, that even as a novice designer you can do to make content, both look better and work more efficiently to communicate your message in the most effective way possible:

1) Have your brand guide handy at all times.

The brand guidelines help create the same experience with your brand, where ever it is. Your brand guidelines should include the color palette, fonts, logo and the tone of voice that you use to represent your brand.

2) Know and use your colors, fonts and styles.

Don’t make design choices haphazardly. Everything you choose communicates something about you. Decide what kind of mood you are trying to set. Are you a professional, corporate giant on-the-make or an artistic studio-house? Create a style that puts those ideas forward that is also legible and easy to access. How do you know if everything is working the way you want it to? That’s easy. Test it and get customer feedback. Color Palette

3) Dissect and reuse popular visual content.

Look at your analytics to see what has worked for you in the past. This will mark the big rocks in your content that you can build on to Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE). Use web analytics to identify popular content and social analytics to identify what is most engaging to your viewers.

4) Have a library of popular reusable assets.

Create and store Evergreen Content that can be used again and again. This is where Digital Asset Management (DAM) can help, by providing a system to help you take stock of everything that you have, so you can easily improve, iterate and repurpose it down the road. Use content curation tools to manage your content, as well as any created by third-parties. Try something new by reimaging old content and ideas. Reference old content with new content by creating roundup lists or take written content to a new visual form and visual to new written articles.

5) Balance purchased, professional and user generated photographs.

camera phone Give your customers a voice, engage with your community, and leverage your existing market base for further growth and content development. Balance purchased, professional photos with authentic images of your product in a real-world context. Encourage and showcase User Generated Content (UGC). Identify content that you own that is related to your message. Then, look for related third-party content to add to the mix! Qualify: is it legit and current? Does it support your point of view, and add value to your audience?

6) Use imagery that resonates.

Identify your brand’s influencers and develop a content strategy to connect with your audience and portrays your brand. This will help you create content that is consistent, simple and engaging. Understand your buyer personas and map your content according to your customer’s life-cycle stages and changing needs. Provide ongoing information to educate, grow and build your relationship.

7) Have a basic familiarity with design tools.

There is an ideal tool for almost every job. The more you have in your tool box, the faster and easier content creation can be. Easy tools like Canva can make graphic design easy for everyone.

8) Use screenshots and cropping tools.

Create and curate content that buyers and customers want that will assist them and doing their jobs better. Place them in the right channel, format and time that will help them quickly comprehend and utilize the right information to take action. Present solutions to customer problems by demonstrating proof of your product’s ability to solve their problems. Deliver actionable information to empower and champion your viewers to act or change their current behavior.

9) Use templates.

Create InDesign layouts and templates for PowerPoint presentations, event social headers and more. Set up sample, basic templates that can be easily customized for each purpose. More advanced template building tools keep the brand locked down and allow users to localize their content.

10) Be consistent.

This is your main goal when creating a brand guide and templates. For your message and brand’s image to be clear, it must have a similar look and feel across the board, to represent exactly who you are as a brand, so don’t underestimate its importance. Brand consistency creates strong, brand impressions, which creates brand buy-in, brand loyalty and brand advocacy.

A brand is not a product, or a promise, or a feeling. It’s the sum of all the experiences you have with a company,” Amir Kassaei

Another tool that helps novice designers adhere to their brand and design standards is Smartimage by easily allowing you to access a library of pre-approved content. All administrators can quickly upload logos, vector files and photographs for consistent reuse to maintain brand consistency. Content is efficiently managed and shared with others through portals, links and password protected collections. Searching, tags and filters help users find exactly what you need. Smartimage even provides download options for both the original file and common conversions. You can even store your video files to watch and share right alongside your other brand content!

Capturing and sharing your company culture through photographs

Widen Company Culture
Our company recently celebrated our WorldBlu Freedom Centered Workplace recognition and inspiration with a fireside chat and cupcakes. Our people and culture are two key things that make us different. Just ask our customers! We love to share what’s going on at Widen and with the Smartimage team. It’s a great way to enhance our brand and engage with our customers.

Capturing and sharing your company culture through photographs can be easy. We’ve got some steps and tips to help you share what your companies about.

It starts with great culture

If you’re looking to share your company culture through photographs, make sure you’ve got a culture worth sharing. You don’t need to be Southwest or Twitter to share your culture. But don’t make disgruntled employee’s force a smile for a photo. You want to be sharing authentic stories and candid moments through your photos.

Get your team onboard

You’re striving to capture your company culture, not just your marketing and social media team’s culture. Encourage the rest of your organization to take photos of special events, day-in-the-life photos, etc. to capture multiple perspectives and experiences. Communicate the value and importance of sharing your culture externally with your employees to help get everyone onboard. When everyone owns it, people get more excited to partake.

This photo captures our “Grill Day” we have once a week during the summer.
Grill Day Widen Company Culture

Teach your teams the basics of mobile photography

The nice thing about smartphones today is that they’ve got pretty nice cameras. And as Chase Jarvis says, “The best camera is the one that you have with you.”

While nothing beats a professional photographer with a nice DSLR, you don’t have to be a professional to take photographs that tell a story. Share these “16 tips to take better marketing photography with your smartphone camera” with your team. Applying these simple tips can make a huge impact on the quality of your photos.

Put your photographs in a one, central place

How many photographs get taken and then never seen or used again? When you have many people taking photos on many different devices, it becomes even more important to have a central place for your photos to live. Make it as easy as possible for your photographers to drop photos off into one, accessible place.

Once your photos are in one place, organize them. Applying keywords and descriptions up-front saves your team time in the long run. Helping them find what they need when they need.

Sharing your company culture through photographs

One of the best places to share your culture photographs is on social media. It gives your followers an exclusive look into the company behind your product or service. This How to Turn Employees Into Social Media Advocates post shares an example of Zappos enhancing their brand. Following Zappos on social media makes it easy to see their dedication to customer service and their great culture.

Sharing your company culture doesn’t have to stop at social media. You can use these culture shots in your sales presentations, about us page, and videos. You can use them anywhere you want to show who you are and what you’re about.

Recycling, reusing & repurposing your visual content

Go green with your marketing. Reuse and recycle content to reduce the amount of new work you and your team need to do. That’s the theme around Jake Athey’s presentation, “The Art of Recycling, Reusing & Repurposing Your Visual Content,” shared at the American Family Insurance Dreambank small business workshop.

The presentation covers:
– Ways to share, reuse and repurpose content.
– Identifying your own “big rock content.”
– Sharing your visual story with the customer journey.
– Ways to manage repurpose-able content.
– Strategies that help you connect with your customers and grow your business.

We encourage you to read through the presentation, but we’ve also added some thoughts on applying reuse, recycle, and reduce in your marketing.

Reuse it over time

Your visual content can live longer than the few minutes it was in a Twitter feed. Get more out of your visuals by reusing them over time and across different channels. Keeping your visual content organized will help you find what you need, when you need it. An example from our own experience includes photos taken to share company events become critical imagery sharing our company culture on the web and in print material.

You’ll have to be the judge on how long a piece of content should live. Once it’s been used enough, it can be recycled and given new life.

Recycle existing content

Recycling is to make something new from something that has been used before. Do a “DIY recycle” search and you’ll see a lot of examples of used items being given new form. If milk cartons can become color pencil organizers and coffee cans become pots for plants, why can’t a slide deck presentation turn into an infographic? Or an image in an email be updated to become a fun social share.

Always be thinking of ways you can give new life to your existing content. Parts of content that can be recycled include the template, information, or individual graphic parts that make up the content.

Reduce amount of new work

The new page features a background video. We did an internal video shoot to capture those shots. A month later, we needed to update our explainer video. Being able to reuse shots from the backgrounder video as b-roll in our new explainer video saved us all the time it would have taken to coordinate and shoot the same style b-roll. When you reuse and recycle content, you’re reducing the amount of new work you and the team have to do. Couldn’t we all use some more time in the week?

If finding your digital assets sounds like just as much work as it would be to recreate them, it’s time for your team to get organized. Try Smartimage for free for 15 days.