June 02, 2022

More Than Words: How to turn messaging into visual communications

Message creation is a core activity and often a starting point with many of our clients. We help them identify pain points, understand narrative histories, and leverage data on public opinions. We find ways to frame ideas in the context of problems they solve and opportunities they create, and we consider nuances for a multitude of audiences.

And while words matter deeply, it is crucial that “messaging” be examined beyond just language. Consider visual communications, the art of conveying a message, inspiring change, or eliciting emotion through the use of visual elements, including graphics, photos, videos, slide decks, and GIFs. This practice requires a deep understanding of the accompanying messaging’s aspects:

  • Voice: how the personality of the organization/brand/person is expressed
  • Tone: the attitude conveyed (e.g. confident, authoritative, questioning, intimate)
  • Sentiment: positive, negative, or neutral concerning the information conveyed
  • Target Audience: cultural nuances based on your audience’s age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, religion, and other identities

No matter the medium, it’s important to take the following elements into account for your next visual content creation.


Companies have long incorporated color psychology into their logo choices. Colors can evoke specific emotions, which through branding and marketing efforts, are tied to a company’s mission and/or core values. Though logos often remain static for longer terms, each campaign and piece of collateral is an opportunity to examine how you use color palette to evoke the right emotions and actions by your audience.


People-centric storytelling is impactful because we can visualize ourselves as a character within the story. With visual storytelling, the faces you choose can either convey your message more strongly or create dissonance. For example, you wouldn’t pair happy smiling faces with text that evokes grave urgency or negative consequences (unless the message was purposefully sarcastic).

When choosing stock or purpose-shot photos and video to accompany messaging, be sure to carefully evaluate the makeup of people in the photos. Consider:

  • Are their facial expressions and body language conveying the messaging of the text?
  • Are they appropriately diverse - not only in skin color but in age, ability, body size, and gender representation? Who or what is excluded from this collateral?
  • Do the images perpetuate any negative stereotypes? Do they reinforce dominant cultural norms? Would you want to be portrayed in this way?

Whether you're using paid or royalty-free stock assets, it's imperative that you verify their legality and give their creators proper credit. However, if they are designated for commercial use, you can find stock photos or video for various profit-driven designs and projects, including websites, marketing, and branding.


In a similar vein, be careful about choosing library sound for videos. Upbeat happy music would not match a somber message. If your video has a narrator, make sure the vocal performance properly conveys the intended tone. Intonations and vocal punctuation can emphasize key messages and draw attention to specific words and descriptions.

Also try to incorporate natural sound (nats), ambient or environmental sounds the microphone captures during a recording. Nats can create a more immersive atmosphere for the viewer and can sometimes inform us in ways visuals can’t.

To make videos more accessible for audiences, captioning is vital. It allows those hard of hearing to watch videos and can help people focus on and remember the information more easily. Captions also improve literacy, reading comprehension, and access for non-native English speakers.

As the iconic 1991 ballad by Extreme reminds us: More than words is all you have to do to make it real.

When considering message creation as part of a larger strategic communication plan, visual communication is crucial – it has a far greater impact on the overall experience than text-heavy material alone.

By Jayda Leder-Luis, Joe Casale, and Fred Wannawat