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Six Sources to Inspire Your Visual Storytelling Side

April 15, 2013

After talking at the PR Newswire event on visual storytelling, it occurred to me that I missed the obvious.

People gravitate to the PR profession for two reasons, they like to write or they like to interact with others. In either case, the visual part of communications is an afterthought at best. They perceive areas like graphic design, videography and typography as the domain of institutions with “art” in the name.

That’s why they come to the communications profession with little or no background in visual storytelling.

How should PR address this blind spot?

Hiring talent from the design side is one way to accelerate expertise in storytelling. While we’ve gone this route and it has made a difference, PR practitioners on the front lines still need to bring a visual mentality to their craft.

No need to go back to school for an MFA.

Simply studying various forms of visual communications, “borrowing” what you like and experimenting will cultivate your visual side.

So many places to learn, but here are six sources that inspire me.

Smashing Magazine

The property is geared for the “pros from Dover” (“M*A*S*H” the movie, circa 1970), but it offers a terrific mix of information for the non-designer to tap the right side of the brain. Just avoid clicking the coding channel.

Creative Overflow

Creative Overflow touts itself as “about Anything Creative” (their punctuation, not mine), not exactly true since writing doesn’t make their radar. Still, plenty of visual fodder to get the juices flowing.



I’ve discussed Medium before, the latest Jack Dorsey startup . If nothing else, study the drop-dead gorgeous typography and the interplay with photography.

Fast Co Design

More than any other mainstream business publication, Fast Company has jumped on the Steve Jobs bandwagon; i.e., design not only matters, it matters the most. Its design channel went through an overhaul at the start of the year. Again, so many ideas that beget more ideas. Look at the handling of this story on Taiwanese ice cream in Barcelona.

Fast Co Design Ice Cream

Even if you don’t have the funding for this type of industrial-grade photography, the format of the visual storytelling could be applied to any topic.

Drew Skau

His technical title, visualization architect for, belies a fresh and accessible view.

BusinessWeek (hardcopy)


That’s right. You’re going to have to fork over real money to subscribe to the print version of Businessweek. With strength of conviction, tell your boss that you want Businessweek “just for the pictures.” That’s the only way to see the clever design techniques that lift the editorial product.

From the example above, we borrowed this technique to create a visual for a recent post.

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Would love to hear your go-to sources of inspiration for visual storytelling.


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