Storytelling through Design

Words, data, graphs, pictures all need a sprinkle of magic to make them easier to read. This magic can otherwise be known as the art of storytelling.

Why is storytelling so important?

Storytelling comes naturally to us. As human beings, we find it easier to remember through stories than facts, figures and statistics alone. When a story is told well, the information you are relaying to your audience will help you connect, evoke emotion and inspire them to take action. And for this reason, storytelling can be a very powerful tool for marketers.

For ethical organisations, including charities, stories are a great way to capture readers’ attention and show them the difference their support can make. And for many charities, their Annual Report is one of the most important publications produced, because besides fulfilling reporting requirements, they can act as a powerful marketing tool.

An Annual Report includes information on the work achieved, and this information is presented in the form of words, pictures and financial information. However, one challenge faced by organisations, is the sheer amount of information being relayed to the reader and trying to get it across in a digestible manner.

A combination of storytelling and good design should work in partnership to turn what can be a ‘dry’ publication into a truly effective marketing communication piece. In addition to good storytelling, good design can help your story deliver an emotional punch, and make it clear what’s distinctive about your organisation’s work.

Using brand identity

As we’ve pointed out, an Annual Reports has so much going on, it is vital to make sure your branding is prominent. A strong brand identity can help to give a consistent feel or drive an emotional response: logo, typography, graphics, strapline and colour palette, all help when trying to pull the reader into your story.

Case Study: Certitude Annual Review

Certitude supports people with learning disabilities and mental health needs. They believe in helping people to lead independent lives and this is reflected in their branding.

To celebrate Certitude’s 25th anniversary we created an Annual Review, both in print and digital format that was visually exciting and told a story through their brand identity.

Certitude’s Annual Reviews have a strong visual style and by using elements of their brand identity throughout the publication and focusing on key concepts such as the interconnecting petals and ‘circles of support’, it is a great example of how to deliver a message in a direct and memorable way.


These interconnecting petals and ‘circles of support’ are used as both a visual and a narrative concept highlighting how people are helped and the branding becomes part of the story. To help demonstrate this ethos even further, individual stories were included throughout the printed report and digital version.

Read the full case study here.

Creating Effective Page Architecture

Whether on screen or in print, a page’s usability depends on good visual organisation to create a narrative and lead the reader through the page. From choice of headings, sub headings and graphics, to treatment of key facts, case studies and quotes, page architecture creates focal points and draws readers in. Important elements include a visually dominant feature, to which readers’ attention is directed and an easily understood order of importance and a clear direction.
Storytelling principles can be useful as you think about how to approach design, which should take the reader through a seamless journey from the front cover to the back page.

Case Study: Lemon Tree Trust

Lemon Tree Trust wanted to engage people at the World Humanitarian Summit 2016 with their vision of greening spaces within refugee camps and educating a wider audience on the benefits delivered in terms of personal dignity and empowerment, food and economic security.

This was an important story to tell. Greening innovation and urban agriculture in the context of forced displacement might be perceived as quite a complex issue, so we recommended a landscape format to echo the nature of the project, which would deliver the personal stories and photographs with great impact.

We also created a simple, clear infographic to clarify the concepts, processes and practices of greening innovation and help make their story as accessible as possible to a wide range of global audiences, some of whom had limited knowledge of greening innovation in refugee camps.


It was important that the report did not look or read like an ‘academic’ reference but instead told the stories of people who have benefited from Lemon Tree Trusts programmes, which helped to educate and raise awareness of greening innovation.

Read the full case study here.

We have been supporting ethically-minded organisations to tell their stories with clarity and passion for over 21 years. For more ideas about how design can help tell your story and engage with your audiences, call Chris on 020 8426 6888 or drop her an email.


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