The motto of Until Sunday, the collaborative agency I founded in 2012, is, ‘We believe in the power of storytelling.’ This is the motto we’ve used since day one before storytelling was a hot topic of discussion. Nowadays, storytelling is a buzzword and everybody is wondering when this trend will end.
Brands used to support and promote their emotional connection with customers. Designers have to justify their decisions when words like, "design-thinking" and "user-centric" seem too technical and cold.
The wide adoption of the word ‘storytelling’ has also made influential designers very angry.
I don’t think designers should present themselves as storytellers, because, let's be honest, we can't compete with more competent people that are professional journalists and writers. However, we can learn to master storytelling to leverage our client's brand and their stories.
I have used storytelling to help my clients with different aspects of their businesses, and in specific cases, while on this journey together, we understood that stories:
- Help sell.
- Give context.
- Drive action.
Stories help sell
A brand with a story sells better. An engaging story provides a competitive advantage, adding emotional value to the product or service it sells. Customers empathise with the brand because stories use analogies anyone can understand, allowing the brain to process information in a more digestible and memorable form.
This is exactly what we did when Sarah Watz, CEO of Pixpro contacted us to work on the re-brand of her digital company. Sarah didn’t want to change Pixpro’s look completely, but she wanted Pixpro to become more recognisable while still maintaining its uniqueness.
During our meetings, Sarah said something about the way her team works that really stood out for us, "In our work, we always look for the X factor that makes our client’s business unique”.
We wanted this detail to be central to their story. When I redesigned their logotype the big X in Pixpro became more than just a letter, it became a way to create a conversation with clients and a symbol of progress and regeneration.
Their robust and contemporary identity created a much stronger brand that helped them to compete with the biggest companies in every market. As well as being a rewarding project for us to work on, the company also enjoyed increased revenues and market share.
Stories give context
If you want to understand the challenges a business is facing, you need to be aware of all the facts related to the problem. You must examine their context and complexity while learning how they relate to each other. This is what stories help you through.
Together with the digital company, Lighthouse, we built a story for Horten, a small city in Vestfold County, Norway.
Europe is full of fantastic destinations with a rich history, great architecture, and thousands of fascinating stories. The stories of some destinations are well known globally, Horten needed to embrace their own story and then share it with the world. All we had to do first was figure out what their story was, and then convey it in a way people would relate to.
During recent years the municipality has invested money in refining the perception of the town and encouraging the local community to be part of different and inspiring initiatives. The city of Horten was inextricably tied to its naval port and sea life, and although people love living in such a relaxing and quiet city, they didn’t find their lives in Horten exciting. We needed to change this perception.
We designed a handwritten slogan that could sit next to the city's rigid logotype that could represent the refreshed brand promise, ‘The opportunities are here.’ The new slogan became the visual representation of the commitment of the municipality to transform the city into a fascinating destination.
From our perspective the story was really simple, ‘Everybody (young and old, citizens and tourists, families and companies) is welcome in Horten and can find something in this city they like’.
In 2018, the Norwegian slogan found its English counterpart in the slogan, "Home of Opportunities". In this case, they were not targeting the citizens, but international companies and stakeholders. With a similar slogan, we wanted to influence their decisions by telling them a slightly different story, "Horten is the right place to invest and grow your ideas."
Stories drive action
Data and numbers are without emotion. If you want to create a parade of people supporting you and your brand, you need stories. Stories touch us profoundly, suffusing our lives with meaning. They drag us outside our everyday life, they inspire and invite us to take action.
Since 2009 I have been the main designer of the International Joomla conference, J and Beyond.
The event always happens in different parts of Europe and each year comes up with a new motto, a new format, and a lot of surprises for the attendees. This takes a huge amount of work for the organisers who are committed to creating novelty. As a result, every year the event is different from the previous years.
However, while locations and goals change, the target audience remains the same, Joomla developers, builders, and companies around the world.
Every year I do my best to create a unique connection between the main theme of the event and the place where it takes place. It requires a lot of research and lateral thinking, but most of all the ability to convey the chosen story on all the communication materials, from digital banners to t-shirts, bags, attendee badges, programs, videos, etc.
The design of the first J and Beyond in 2010 was inspired by the classic adventure novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, written by French writer, Jules Verne. At that time there were not any Joomla World conferences where Joomlers around the globe could join, so the call felt appropriate. In fact, many passionate people answered the call and travel through the seven seas to attend what it rapidly became, the best conference for people working with Joomla.
Storytelling raises the bar, adding a great sense of purpose to the experience, whatever the message being communicated, whether transforming the perception of an entire city, or engaging with a worldwide community.
For stories to be memorable and meaningful they need to be real, authentic and tailored to the specific brand. When written well, stories are able to connect with the user on a very deep emotional level, guaranteeing an experience that goes far beyond the product itself, and portrays the heart of a brand.
This is how the brand becomes more human, memorable, and meaningful.