2015 Adobe MAX Recap – Part 2

Adobe MAX stage

Allow me to set the scene with the Adobe MAX stage that was always adorned with art from many creatives.

In my last post recapping the 2015 Adobe Max Conference, I provided personal reflection prompts to encourage exploring your creativity goals and hang ups. While I found these sessions and the resulting guidance to be extremely valuable, the Adobe MAX Conference wasn’t all creative soul searching. Let’s shift to brass tacks with some concrete professional recommendations around storytelling.

Professional Recommendations

Of course justification for conference dollars and time must come back to real world work application. Well I have plenty of insightful storytelling nuggets from three speakers, specifically looking at structure and visualization.

Story Structure

This was by far my favorite session because Christine Steele‘s guidance can be applied across the practice of storytelling. No matter the subject, these tips will help you road map your story to effectively convey your central message and engage your audience.

Craft a compelling narrative structure.
Review your story or concept and identify the potential human themes or universal truths (e.g., fear, safety, sexuality, etc.) that will resonate with your audience. If you’re experiencing trouble – consider the themes or truths from stories that resonated with you. Depending on the intended length of the piece, also consider supporting themes that can feed into your established main theme. Hold strong to these concepts through production and post-production but be subtle in application.

Prompt questions from the audience.
Your opening should always help ground the audience by providing the who, what, where and when. Prompt your audience to wonder and watch further by planting the why and the how after this beginning build. You must note when the audience is satisfied and then prompt them to ask another question that will soon be answered. This beat holds attention and interest.

Create movement to advance the story.
Design mini arcs to create rises in action and maintain movement. How is each scene helping to build the story? Keep a close eye on when and how you move from scene to scene. This attention to movement and development must also be reflected in central characters. Show the turnaround and motives behind their choices.

“Learn the rules and you can break them in interesting ways.”
It is important to understand the art of storytelling so you can see opportunities to break the rules. Surprising audiences can be good as long as it makes sense for the story. For example, you can play around with time to build suspense – comprehension and interest trump the need for a linear path.

Beyond Infographics: The Future of Visual Communications

Nick Grant and Amy Balliett, the brains behind Killer Infographics, discussed the art of visual communication (or visual storytelling). In essence, the concept seeks to use visuals and minimal text to tell a complex story. Examples of visual communications include static infographics, interactives and motion graphics. Grant and Balliett emphasized the following to deliver effective visual communications.

Remember “we don’t think in text.”
While I’d argue text still has its place, Grant and Balliett supplied some interesting stats around the effectiveness of visuals:

  • 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • Text paired with images improves comprehension by 89 percent (pictograms can even transcend language barriers)
  • Posts with images receive 65 percent more likes, comments and shares than those without
  • Blog posts with visuals receive 94 percent more page views

Make it intuitive.
Using an example from Killer Infographics’ portfolio, The Solutions Project doesn’t require instructions. While a single interactive visual contains several layers of info, it’s simple to use and navigate for the end user. It’s also easy from a client perspective; the interactive visual is linked to a spreadsheet so the organization doesn’t need to know how to update the code. They simply revise the spreadsheet that feeds the interactive visual.

Make it engaging.
Another example from Killer Infographics, Streamline Water used a motion graphic because it is the best vehicle for selling a product. Consumers are now desensitized to sales related static infographics. Thoroughly consider your audience and need to identify new visual communication opportunities that seamlessly align with your overall brand experience.

Look toward the future.
People are craving short form content, and they’re viewing it on mobile devices rather than desktop screens. Pull snack-size content from larger visuals into social streams to prompt a click-through. Use interactive and animated content to tell one story as thoroughly as possible to ensure comprehension. Link it to other content to tell the larger story in a connected and cohesive experience.

While these were two fairly different sessions, both offered interesting insights around the storytelling process. They both also centralized on the experience of your audience, making it easy to follow but engaging enough to hold attention. How do these insights change your thoughts on storytelling? Do you follow a tried and true structure? Have you been incorporating more visual communication tactics? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.


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