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Web Crafting Archives • Candelita

Modern visual storytelling lessons from an ancient expert

A lot has changed since Aristotle proposed his six elements of drama. For one thing, people who were once thrilled at any opportunity to distract themselves from the drudgery of everyday life are now bombarded with distractions. So many, in fact, that modern storytellers have less than 9 seconds to captivate their audiences.

Given that, do Aristotle’s six elements still hold up? If you’re working on weaving a visual story, they do. Here’s how.


Even a single frame advertisement is more effective with characters in it. We’re wired to not only recognize and remember human faces, but to identify, relate and respond to human emotions on faces. As a shorthand for very complex human circumstances and responses, human faces are an immediately understood language all their own. However, characters don’t have to be human; think of the tear-jerker collaboration between Sarah McLaughlin and the SPCA. I defy you to watch this commercial and not want to immediately adopt fifteen kittens.

Make characters, their goals, and their obstacles relatable to your target market.


You may think that a social media visual wouldn’t have room for an entire plot, but our brains are so accustomed to creating narratives out of the disparate visual information the world delivers that one small image can often tell a story faster than any epic tale. In essence, every plot can be boiled down to a problem and its resolution. Take a look at this one page advertisement from the French document management agency Everial. Can you identify the plot?

Be sure that your visual story has a plot. In the case of a one page ad, you only need to show the problem. The resolution is simple: your product or service.


Clearly your brand’s superiority will be the theme of your visual story, but you should make it more specific. Everial provides numerous benefits to clients, but Redhouse Y&R, the advertising agency behind the brilliant image, focuses on one theme: the constant battle to manage material data. By focusing on this main idea, the image can easily elaborate on several headaches associated with real documents: they take up a lot of room, they become easily disorganized, etc.

Choose one main theme for each visual story.


In a visual story, it may be that the only written word is your brand name; however, a character’s body language and dialogue can also be used to round out a story and to reveal emotions and reinforce important messages.

Keep language spare and use the style and diction of the target market to make your character and plot more relatable.


According to Aristotle, rhythm encompassed both the mood and the movement of a story, and both are still important to visual storytellers. An ad or video should move smoothly from its start to its conclusion to keep viewers in the story. Breaks in either the mood or the movement will jar your audience out of your message, making it less effective. On the other hand, an established rhythm can also set up expectations for a satisfying plot twist as in this Pfizer commercial.

Use forward momentum to establish a rhythm that keeps your audience in the moment.


Spectacle refers to all of the specifically visual elements of a story: costumes, settings, special effects. The word itself conjures up fireworks and masquerade balls, but in reality, your office or shop, your uniforms and products, all of these elements contribute to the spectacle of your story. In short forms like commercials, videos, and ads, subtlety and consistency in the imagery can be just as effective (and less distracting) than neon and glitter.

Try to include your brand colors and visual motifs relevant to your brand so that the visual elements of your story not only provide a context for your characters and plot but also serve as a reminder of your brand.

Share your favorite examples of powerful visual storytelling in the comments section.

Yes. Even you need a business website.

It’s hard to imagine, but as of 2015, 1 in 2 small businesses still have no business website. The reasons given for this oversight may appear varied at first glance:

  • People don’t find me online.
  • People don’t use Google for the sorts of merchandise/services I offer.
  • People already know about my business.
  • All of my business comes from referrals.
  • No one else is doing what I do.
  • I’ve been doing fine without a website for years.

However, it comes down to one critical (and false) belief: My business has needs and clients that are totally unique from any other business.

The fact is that in the 21st century, a website is not optional if you want your business to thrive over the long haul. Note that the above statistic references small businesses. Why not cite large businesses? Because it’s extremely difficult to dig up large enterprises that have managed to avoid building a corporate website. In fact, the larger a small business is, the greater the likelihood that it has a website. Among small businesses with revenues over $10 Million, 84% have websites.

But which came first? The website or the growing business?

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses that have invested in a website average $1.07 Million more per year in sales than those that don’t have a website. It stands to reason that those rapidly growing small businesses – the ones that are tiptoeing into large business status – have grown thanks in large part to greater exposure via their websites.

So here are a few rebuttals to the most common excuses for not having a business website:

People don’t find me online.

Precisely. This may not seem like a problem if you still consider the Yellow Pages a viable marketing device, but 97% of consumers search for products and services online in 2016. If you’re not there, at least one of your competitors is. Of course, if you’re not there, you can hardly be called a competitor in that field.

People don’t use Google for the sorts of merchandise/services I offer.

Answer honestly: is there anything that you don’t use Google for? It’s just not realistic to believe that one industry is somehow too transcendent for Google’s search engines. Trust me. They’re searching. The exception to this may be those lingering C-suite prospects from the old school who don’t entirely trust technology; however, those young upstarts nipping at their heels – the ones you’ll be doing business with when the old guard retires – most certainly rely on online searches.

People already know about my business.

Congratulations! You’re in a good position. But is that good enough? Markets are perpetually shifting, and new competitors are perpetually arising. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and an online presence is critical to new growth in the 21st century. The Small Business Administration has found that 50% of Internet sales are from new customers. While old clients are gold, new clients are just as important to your company’s continued growth.

All of my business comes from referrals.

Again: that’s fantastic! You’ve won half the battle by having a superior product or service. However, more and more consumers are using social media and other digital technology to make referrals today. Most clients are happy to take a moment to respond to a survey or to provide a review – if you make it easy for them. What could be easier than providing a link on  your website? Or a link back from email or social media to your website? And providing a satisfied client with a simple URL is an easy invitation to make direct referrals.

No one else is doing what I do.

Not yet. But give it time. Or better yet. Make your mark before competition has the opportunity to do it. Stake out your claim on the first page of search engine results by being the first in your industry to have a professional web presence.

I’ve been doing fine without a website for years.

And our ancestors did fine without cars, tvs, radios, and modern medicine. But aren’t we glad that they embraced innovation when they did? You will be too. While all new technologies seem unnecessary or cost-prohibitive in their first iterations, over time, they become so affordable that it doesn’t make sense to do without. That’s where we are with websites today.

Designing, building, and maintaining a professional website is an affordable investment that will have measurable ROI for your business. Don’t wait any longer.

How has your business website impacted your business?

Website design: set the stage for your brand’s story

On Broadway and in Hollywood, the true nature of a story emerges on carefully constructed sets. Lighting and artfully engineered backdrops create atmosphere. The subtle scoring that underlies each scene establishes mood. Actors’ actions and reactions, tone and costume, reveal motivations and morals.

By the end of a powerful show, the audience has aligned themselves with the story; they’ve become a part of it. Newly converted advocates go home to tell their family and friends that if they are only going to watch one performance this year, choose this one. Read More

Building a Website – The Easy Way

There’s a certain amount of intuitive thinking that goes into everything. It’s so hard to describe how things happen intuitively. I can describe it as a computer and a slot machine. I have a pile of stuff in my brain, a pile of stuff from all the books I’ve read and all the movies I’ve seen. Every piece of artwork I’ve ever looked at. Every conversation that’s inspired me, every piece of street art I’ve seen along the way. Anything I’ve purchased, rejected, loved, hated. It’s all in there. It’s all on one side of the brain.

Debbie MillmanHow to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer (public library)

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