Telling a story without words

I've always been a words person... I was very young when I was first told (with some exasperation) that I could talk under wet cement. Which can make Facebook advertising quite challenging.  When you are used to telling a story with words - how do you accommodate Facebook's demands for little to no text in your images, slideshows, and videos?

The key is visual storytelling - that is letting the images tell the story for you. It's about putting together universal symbols that can tell the story for you. 

Introducing Yang Liu

Beijing-born, Berlin-raised graphic artist Yang Liu is particularly effective at visual storytelling. At the age of 13, Liu moved from Beijing to Berlin. The cultural differences between the two cities were the inspiration for an illustrated project that compares the East with the West. 

Originally a series of posters, Liu's designs were published as a collection East Meets West in 2007. Widely praised for its simplicity and gentle wit, the book has also become a favourite with professional trainers around the world. 

From a social media point of view, we can learn from Liu's simple but very effective style to tell stories without relying on too many words.  

Images: Yang Liu from East Meets West 


How do I tell my story without words?

The hardest thing about telling stories without words is coming up with a concept that will grab attention, but also make sense to your audience. That's because there are two awesome tools to help you create the graphics you want to tell your story. 

The first is The Noun Project, which aims to create, share and celebrate the world's visual language. Every day, designers add new icons to the website giving you a huge array of icons you can download and use. You can download and use images for free with a credit to the creator, or purchase royalty free images for a couple of dollars. But if you get hooked on the tool, you can become a paid member and download and use all the icons you want.

I love using The Noun Project icons as a starting point in the graphics I create. Because of the simplicity of the icons, I find it easy to modify them in Photoshop to create exactly the concepts I want. However, if Photoshop is not your thing, you can still find icons from The Noun Project to upload to Canva - another great tool for creating graphics to tell stories. Canva also has some icons and illustrations in its library that you can use in your designs.

The trick, of course, is speaking the universal language - and using images in a creative way that everyone can understand. To improve your visual storytelling skills, you should channel your high school art class and keep a visual diary of examples that grab your attention. Back then it was ripping magazine pages out and sticking them in a scrapbook, now you can use a Pinterest to keep track of graphics that inspire you. Then you can always go back and flip through your board for inspiration before creating your next Facebook ad.