In today’s mad-dash economy of time it’s become increasingly important to keep your stories simple. Your audience has no time to waste. If you’ve got an idea to share, or a message to communicate, you have no better chance of being heard than with a tight-knit, ergonomic story. This is not to suggest you must strip-back and butcher your primary messages to keep things rudimentary – quite the contrary. Instead, you must work to simplify your storytelling without compromising your story. Refine your point down to its crux, and distil from this an accessible message that is easy or effortless to digest. While this is one thing to say, it is another entirely to do. Stories are not always so easy to compress – particularly if they are inherently elaborate or large.
Recently, Genesis energy approached us with a pretty big story to tell. Faced with a rapidly evolving domestic energy market, Genesis was interested in painting a picture of where their company currently is, what it has been through, where it is going, and how it will get there. Essentially, they were hoping to summarise key content found in their 110-page Annual Report into a short 2 to 3 minute video. This video would then be exhibited on screens in the lobby at the Genesis Energy annual shareholders meeting – meaning that it would have to work without sound. So, without delay, we got stuck in – working closely with Genesis to distil the story of their 110-page report into a vacuum-sealed 200-word script.
However, in working to compress a narrative as expansive as this, the script alone can only accomplish so much – especially where sound is a no-go. This is where visuals play such an important role. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in tandem with the right series of pictures, the written script can take on a whole new layer of meaning. On their own, words and images mean one thing, but when purposefully paired they work symbiotically to exceed the sum of their parts. This is an invaluable tool for story-compression – but requires a careful crafting to be utilised effectively. We’ve found that animation, and simple, iconic graphics work well for compressing visual information – particularly if the visuals will be exhibited in a peripheral capacity, as was the case with Genesis.
Animation can be a great way to ‘lay it all out on the table’, plain as day – an opportunity to figuratively and literally illustrate ideas that may otherwise be too abstract, elaborate, or convoluted to communicate by other means. No unnecessary bells and whistles, distracting garnish or frills – just straight, accessible information communicated clearly in a minimalist aesthetic. We’ve produced several animations of this ilk for Genesis Energy and a range of other clients, almost exclusively for the purpose of elucidating abstract concepts and communicating information ergonomically. Recognisable icons, metaphors, and simple representations are an excellent way to get your point across. While it is not the only way to compress your story, animation is certainly a valuable option.
Whether you’re exhibiting content on screens in a lobby, or sharing a post on Twitter or Facebook, when it comes to contemporary storytelling, less is more. Don’t just hack and slash your story to bits, but, rather, take time to refine it, rework it, and make it more efficient. As Einstein famously quipped, “You do not really know something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” This has never been truer – keep it simple.