The Digital Glue Podcast

EP: 64 - Why Good Design Needs To Tell A Story ...

April 05, 2022 Episode 64
The Digital Glue Podcast
EP: 64 - Why Good Design Needs To Tell A Story ...
Show Notes Transcript

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.”
 - Seth Godin

Welcome to Episode 64:Why Good Design Needs To Tell A Story ...

There’s always room for a story.

Graphic design is a subjective process and there is no set-in-stone "right-way" to go about it. It is a process of understanding, having realistic expectations, patience, and excellent communication (aka. “the story”) that will go a long way towards a successful outcome. Every small business needs to work with a graphic designer from time to time to create marketing materials, and if it’s not managed well, it can be very time consuming. From personally working extensively on both sides of the fence, the story is just as important as the images shared along with it.

So, why does good design need to tell a story? And why is storytelling so dang important? To find out just that -- and more -- here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...

  • Why storytelling in design matters
  • Why colour psychology in design matters
  • How to design to leave an impression on social media
  • What your website should not do (or have) on it
  • How to create a perfect customer journey on your website
  • How to leave an overall lasting impression with your marketing


Are you ready?
Pop in your awesome earbuds and let's dive in!

Graphic design is a subjective process and there is no set-in-stone "right-way" to go about it. It is a process of understanding, having realistic expectations, patience, and excellent communication (aka. “the story”) that will go a long way towards a successful outcome. Every small business needs to work with a graphic designer from time to time to create marketing materials, and if it’s not managed well, it can be very time consuming. From personally working extensively on both sides of the fence, the story is just as important as the images shared along with it. 

So, why does good design need to tell a story? 

And why is storytelling so dang important? 

Well quite frankly, the answer is short -- storytelling (with or without design) evokes emotions, emotions make people act, and when it comes to acting -- no matter where that action takes place -- it most certainly means improved conversions. 

Blatantly put … people care about the stuff they care about.

Having an exceptional branded design that tells a story with a good narrative connects you with the audience on a much deeper level, beyond fast onboarding, generous welcome offer, and hassle-free help. People remember stories up to 22 times more easily than remembering facts.

Users cruising the virtual world these days are literally drowning in content. So, they don’t have the patience and they are more often than not, not in the right conditions or mindset to consume the “traditional” narrative structure. And that’s why telling a story with design is different. We as designers tell stories with colours, fonts, shapes, photography, layouts, animations, sound, informational architecture, and many other micro-interactions to catch ones’ attention.

Unlike the traditional author, we don’t have 391 pages or room to play with to impress the audience with a landing page, or product. We’re lucky even we even get 5 seconds of their time. And if that doesn’t feel tricky enough, things can get even more challenging when we have to put performance and metrics into place, because let’s face it, there are only a mere few brands in the entire world that can afford flashy, catchy and lengthy videos, commercials and animations on their splash screens and pages. In the real world, storytelling must compliment and even more so, enhance the user experience from all angels.

So, given that we must bundle everything up and think about back-end metrics, user-experience, brand guidelines, copy requirements (and sometimes limitations), evoking emotion while conquering pain points, and a handful of other practical considerations alongside design “rules” … what’s the best way to tell a story with design? 

Well, let’s start with one of the basics … COLOURS.

When you enter a room, see someone walking toward you on the street, or look up at a billboard while stuck in yet another rush-hour traffic jam, the first thing you notice is colour. It grabs your attention. 

We can all use and truly enjoy a wide spectrum of colour in our lives, no matter what our gender, race, income level, or profession.

In a society of prized individualism, we now take great joy in choosing colour themes for our home, office, wardrobe, and vehicles. Most people are unaware of the science behind colour, which starts with the twelve-segment colour wheel as sort of a road map to eye-pleasing, effective combinations. Colours also have psychological effects on our minds and bodies. 

For example, reds can make people jumpy, feel excitement, danger, passion, or even feel empowered. Yellow is associated with joy and warmth and stimulates clear thinking (my office wall in my last location was actually called “Bunch O’ Bananas” – and I felt it truly brightened even the toughest workdays). Now, shades of green or pink can calm us down or even make us feel relaxed.

So, believe it or not, wearing certain colours can help you get a raise, win an argument, have the best job interview of your life, and even encourage your friends to spill the latest and greatest gossip. (If that’s what you’re into.)

Colours in your home can have the ability to relax you, encourage or discourage a conversation, or perhaps even give you insomnia. 

Colours on packaging send you subliminal messages that enclose the product as either expensive, cheap, healthy, or even dangerous. 


Because the eye’s perception of each colour triggers instantaneous reactions on your brain and nervous system. And since colour unconsciously influences us on an everyday basis, there is a huge advantage to understanding how and why these reactions occur. So, when it comes to marketing and branding on the business aspect of things, colour psychology is one the most important components of creating designs that POP and achieve the desired objective to your viewers. 

With the importance of story in design land, along side a bit of colour psychology, I now want to break things down into 3 major sections on how to design to leave an impression. All the while keeping storytelling top of mind with everything I’m about to share with you … 

As I sit back and reflect on my past few business years, it dawned on me how quickly it's nearing the end of the first quarter already. And how most of us are scrambling to get things in order for the goals we set out to start off the year. So, let's set all that aside for a minute and get busy with talking about you’re your social spaces, with tactics (from yours truly) for a complete content makeover. 

Good content attracts readers and builds strong communities. And if it’s really good, can even go viral. But if it’s not, well … that’s a whole other story altogether. 

Stale, under-performing social content can drive your audience away. But it’s not like you don’t have options! With my mini-3-step plan, you can drive more ROI from your efforts without having to publish anything new. But before we dive into those 3 simple steps, I want to go over some traits every piece of content should have. Because if you want your brand to be a trusted resource, you have to offer true value. And by “true value” I mean every experience you create in the virtual world should not only reflect your focus on winning in the moment your audience begins paying attention, but also in every single person who precedes and follows along. So, if you’re looking to gain the trust of your audience (which we all are), always be thinking about these traits …

  • CONSISTENCY by delivering regularly and reliable content each and every single time,
  • PERSONALIZATION based on what you learn from you audience,
  • RISK APPROPRIATION as you need to void asking for anything before providing true value, and
  • CUMULATION as you must always be building on what came before.

Now that you have those 4 traits top of mind, let’s finally dive into my 3-step plan for your content makeover …


For starters, a content pillar reflects the core topics of your business. Basically, you are building the mother of all plans. So, whether it’s a core service or product you’re aiming focus on, this will act as an authority on the matter, covering everything from general inquiries to small details but with strong focus all the while leaving just enough room to deep dive with supporting materials.

Begin by going through your content by making a list of everything you already have that touches on your core topics. Look for opportunities to consolidate social posts, optimize your keywords, and turn things around by turning the combined content into something totally refreshed.  This will help you with content creation long run, by rolling the strong points of several related pieces into one! 


For starters, a knowledge bank is a library of your business’s insights, data, areas of expertise, personalized stories, and generalized information. Having all these goodies squirreled away and ready to roll will help you easily fuel your content efforts. If you’re just beginning to build your knowledge bank (or your business) you could start by conducting interviews with the experts in your niche, then organize and store their answers.

If your virtual content is far and few between or you left things on the backburner for too long, start by posting short, targeted articles that address the questions people want (and need) answered. And build your knowledge base from there. It’s truly the easiest, cheapest way to keep your audience happy. And as a bonus, it’s available as a self-serve, 24-hours a day, seven days a week so you don’t burn out and can actually have a life beyond your business.


Having fresh/new ideas will make it easy for your audience to take that next step and engage with you further. It can also turn a low-performing piece into one of your best pieces ever. Almost instantly! So, having a collection of in-depth content on your site or social platforms -- with each including a relevant call-to-action -- will only bring you desired results. Because your audience is more knowledgeable than ever before.

Okay, so your impression on social media is about to improve and your strategy is crisp in your mind. Now let’s talk websites!

All of us tend to make snap judgments. It literally only takes 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person. And websites are no different. And that's why this section is extra special -- and filled to the brim -- with first impression factors such as structure, colours, spacing, symmetry, amount of text, fonts and so much more.

But before we dive into all that website goodness, let me share with you a few quick things your website SHOULD NOT do (or have) …

  • Dead links that lead nowhere or to an error page. Check your links frequently.
  • Poor content may make you lose customers. There is never a need to drone on (but story is important -- in little bits!) so make sure you’re writing for the people reading, not for you or your company.
  • Lots of bell’s n’ whistles including widgets, flash animation, fancy cursors or music (especially NOT music). These things only slow your loading time and annoy most of your visitors. Clean and to the point works best.
  • Long lists of services (or products) as one long continuous scroll tends to make your visitors leave instead of being intrigued to learn more. Break things up and use smart navigation to help them find what they need.
  • No calls to action will give your visitors no reason to stay or learn more about how your business can benefit them and theirs. Explain your brilliant services (or products) in simple ways so they find out more or get in touch.
  • Hard to read text or crappy imagery -- your website is not a newspaper. For best practices a strong contrast and high-quality imagery (or infographics) are extremely important. 

Okay, so now that you have a better idea of what not to do, let’s dive into the good stuff … in list format so I don’t keep you here to long as I know you have lots on your to-do list today!

  • A private yet memorable domain name.
  • Some fun (yet consistent) social sharing buttons and connecting icons.
  • A set of natural SEO keywords in place so you are easily searchable.
  • Some fresh content that always speaks to your visitors -- not your ego.
  • Some outbound links to show you’re a valuable resource (these can also be included within blog and podcast content) as well as some inbound ones to carry even more search engine juice.
  • A brief highlight of your USP (unique selling point) which lets them know WHY to trust you and stick around!
  • A good handful of testimonials so other people can tell your visitors just how good you are. 

In line with those items comes strategy, the journey of the customer, content and design, brand consistency (which I know I harp about a lot!) and certain systems, plug-ins and widgets for functionality, and of course today’s topic … design that evokes emotion through story.

If you look at many modern websites, you’ll see that they adapt themselves to storytelling brilliantly, with a linear narrative. A scrolling website takes people on a journey. The chances are your company specializes in several areas, and you may also be running campaigns, offers or promotions. A scrolling homepage allows you to split what you do into sections, and you can keep the narrative linked as the reader scrolls down. During the scroll, a good design story (how things look and feel, alongside the actual “story”) stimulates people, they build pictures in their mind, they imagine what it would be like to have you help them solve their pain points, they keep your business in their memory, take instant action, and most importantly … will hopefully pass your story on to others. And if the design story your website tells is gripping enough, it will always be passed on by social media and good old-fashioned word of mouth.

The story you tell with your business is only something only you can decide. I find it extremely helpful to think of it like any book you've ever read – or favourite movie or TV series you watched …

  • Who are the characters?
  • Why are they interesting?
  • What was it that got you started on this journey?
  • What's the conflict you've faced? 
  • What kind of conflict do you want to present to the visitor? 
  • What's the ending? 

Kind of like a choose your own adventure novel. 

Now, don't think you need to write this all down in some long ass winded wall of copy. That’s just going to steer people in the opposite direction. Good story telling is about more than just words -- as we’ve been talking about all along today. The ultimate goal here is to make sure your lovely visitors feel something. That they connect with your brand on an emotional level, instead of seeing it as just another place. 

Be bold. Be direct. Be personable. Be human. Be real. 

Think about the images and fonts you use and how you can communicate your story visually. Develop a voice for your brand that extends beyond your slogan. Write copy that speaks to actual, breathing humans, not just "potential customers.” Think of your website in flow, as a way to have a conversation with your visitors, not a soap box to issue claims and statements from. 

And everything I just shared with you in the realm of websites, should also be pushed into your other efforts: social media and general marketing. In which we’re diving into next … good ‘ol marketing! 

Truthfully, the market is overcrowded, no matter the niche. And especially since the pandemic hit our lives so brutally. And honestly, no matter the circumstances, that’s never really going to change. Especially in a virtual world! So, of course we all want to leave a lasting impression to stand out against our competitors. I actually just had this very same conversation with one of my clients last week … 

In a roundabout way without divulging all the details, I reminded her that one’s true talent and passion, if done right in the virtual world, will always outweigh the overcrowded market. And when things feel tough and too many opinions of others begin to cloud the judgment of her dreams (especially from those who claim they are “the guru” and “know better” -- even though they barely know her and her business at all), that her opinion is the one that matters the most. She is the only one knows her talents and strengths the best. So, to not give up … It’s just a matter of re-jigging her strategy (with some help from other talented individuals), doing things right and making her business stand out on all fronts!

(I hope she is listening to this now as a friendly reminder. Also, so she knows she’s on the right path and that’s she’s not alone. Other entrepreneurs have felt this way too. Some probably still do.)

So, you’re probably now wondering … How does one leave that overall lasting impression when it comes to marketing, and with design story still top of mind (at all times)?

Well for starters, it takes a strategic approach and a heck of a lot of planning and organization. But if you’re determined, like my client, you must start with keeping things real! Be yourself. Your true authentic self. Not the one you share with the world through Facebook livestreams, watch parties, blogs, and podcasts. It’s time to stop holding back your opinions, squashing creative ideas, and most importantly … downplaying your personality, all for the fear of being judged. 

Trust me, the world around you knows how professional your business is (that most are) but what audiences nowadays are looking for is real connections and real truths.

To dive a bit deeper into the topic of those deep connections I just mentioned … Think about things as making deposits, not withdrawals. Kind of like you would at the bank. You want people to have #HappyFeels after engaging with you. Feel purely energized and filled to the brim with excitement, not exhaustion. And to do that through marketing you should make sure your brand (virtually or on paper) is what I like to call the 3 C’s … CLEAR, CONCISE and CONSISTENT!

The 3 C’s come together by making your brand feel as though it’s a real person (when truly it is because it’s you with a different name), having real conversations and making real eye contact. Thus, sharing real stories, experiences, and expertise to become one with your audience. Giving them #TheFeels. And if you’ve done that and they’ve engaged … You’ve WON! (So-to-speak.)

So, ask yourself …

  • Does your brand leave a lasting, positive impression on the world?
  • How would your audience describe your business to another?

If you’re answer is “I’m not sure” to either of those questions, perhaps it’s time to chat with a professional. 

By now, through all I’ve shared with you today, I’m sure you’ve noticed a pattern … Good design matters. But better design that tells a story and evokes emotion, matters even more. People crave stories. So, make sure to tell them a good one, and they'll keep coming back for more. 

With this in mind, I only have one more thing to add …
The golden rule in design-land, everything must tell a story and evoke emotion and connection. This type of consistency leads to recognition and recognition leads to trust. 

By listening to your story and vision, and your ideas on how you want to make your bigger picture a reality, we here at team VU can help you shape your brand, elevate your logo (or graphics), and help you portray your business to your target market more effectively. So, feel free to drop us a line so we can strategize about how to begin “untangling” your business’ storytelling design needs.