Do judge a book by its cover
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is an idiom I’ve never completely bought into from a professional comms perspective.
No, you shouldn’t prejudge something’s worth or value by its outward appearance alone. But how often do we, bombarded as we are by content, do exactly that with the material we choose to consume?
Our attentions can only be grabbed so often in today’s hyper-visual culture, and we’re battling 790 photos being uploaded (just to Instagram) every single second. Every second.
That’s a remarkable figure, one that’s indicative of today’s near-total democratisation of photography. For better or worse, more people are taking and uploading images than ever before, and more people have an opinion on what, visually, is ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
So how should organisations respond to this in their content and external communications? How can they battle volume and differentiate themselves from competitors to compel target audiences to engage?
Well, a stunning ‘cover’ is a very useful starting point. And we’re continually seeing the bar being raised in terms of corporate imagery and visual content.
Consider Diel Group Architects’ homepage, IBM’s Cognitive Era or Arup’s Total Design over time book: these firms have translated technical topics into arresting, bold, accessible storytelling, with visual-first designs punctuated by minimal text. They illustrate the welcome shift we’ve seen in ‘consumer’ no longer being at odds with ‘professional’, as organisations continue to align their visual identities with the Apple template (that could be interpreted as a slur but it really isn’t intended to be).
Organisations are still left with a challenge, however. If, generally, visual-led comms have become more sophisticated, there’s still the issue of differentiation, of standing out from the crowd. And with this in mind, here’s some advice for using imagery within your corporate content and storytelling to deliver a visual identity that’s compelling but also unique to your organisation:
At Brands2Life, we regularly hear two things from organisations. Firstly, ‘we want to inject some personality into our corporate identity’. Secondly, that ‘our people are our most valuable asset’. If ever there was a case for joining the dots, then this is it: showcase your talent, loudly and proudly, through photography. Don’t visualise ‘business success’ by using that stock imagery of a silhouetted professional high-fiving another – every other professional services firm did this already, seven years ago. Work to incorporate your own people into your external visual identity to showcase who (not what) makes your company unique, from the outset.
Many organisations do not maximise the potential they have in delivering stunning imagery – it’s either not a priority or not a consideration. Push to make it both. Just because you don’t operate in a typically ‘photogenic’ industry, doesn’t mean you should disregard photography. Photographers like Alastair Philip Wiper, for example, specialise in finding the ‘unintentional beauty’ of ‘the weird and wonderful subjects of industry, science, architecture, and the things that go on behind the scenes’. So, if you’re an engineering practice or a management consultancy with project teams on-site, across the globe – get creative; bring in a photographer to identify the best locations for both on-site and conceptual photography. The objective should be a combination of project-specific images but also more abstract photography that can sit across your owned destinations and external communications.
Integrate from the outset
Here’s the big one. The best book covers are the ones that not only grab your attention but also encapsulate, embody and pre-empt the writing that follows. Imagery should serve the same purpose within corporate content and storytelling. Thinking ‘visually’ and being bolder with the imagery you use is all smoke and mirrors unless, deep down, it’s born out of your organisation’s identity and messaging framework, the stories you want to tell and your vision for the future. Bringing this together will help ensure you deliver more than a distracting ‘cover’, it’ll enable you to follow this with a killer opening chapter and a page-turner of a narrative that’s completely unique to you.
(For the record, if I had to choose a favourite cover it’d be either Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are or Marshall Arisman’s American Psycho artwork).
Written by Dan Bond, Associate Director, Corporate & Business Communications.