Visual Communication

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Visual Communication

Bridging the translation gap with concept packages.

In the design world, effective communication of complex ideas is critical to a project’s success. Whether it's hospitality, education, healthcare, restaurant and retail or big name entertainment, if we cannot communicate our vision in a compelling fashion, we will not have a compelling design. This can be especially challenging in international design work. An idea which is translated from English to Mandarin, Russian or Arabic, for example, often loses much of its nuance. A good translation is hard to come by and, more often than not, is simply impossible due to the restrictions of language.

In order to overcome the language barrier with our international clients and consultants, Cuningham Group has started to explore several visual-based storytelling tools, the most prominent of which is storyboarding. Especially prevalent in the film industry, storyboarding differs from traditional concept art in that it communicates the “why” of a project, not just the final result.

“Storyboarding is really about communication,” said Cuningham Group Associate Designer Matt Saunders. “Qualitative communication, beyond numbers and statistics. Storyboarding communicates the ‘why.’”

Take, for example, this excerpt from an original story for a dinosaur resort and theme park in China. In just a few simple images, Cuningham Group designers were able to convey the story behind the park, as well as the driving sentiments, mood and feel. By the end of the storyboard, viewers are placed both figuratively and literally at the park’s entrance.

According to Cuningham Group Principal David Hyde, storyboarding isn’t simply a way to introduce a client to a project, rather the two should work in tandem throughout the entire design process.

“The story supports the master plan, the master plan supports the story, and they evolve together,” Hyde said. “Both the design and story get richer as you go back and forth.”

Because the visual medium is a universal language, this technique is not simply a tool for communicating with Cuningham Group’s Mandarin or Arabic-speaking clients; it can be used domestically as well. Internally, storyboarding can be used for onboarding, or to catch a new designer up to speed. It also establishes a shared visual language through which individuals can create unified designs.

Although the use of visual storytelling as a design tool is still relatively new, we are already seeing the great strides that can be made when it is implemented effectively. Whether we are bringing dinosaurs to life, or simply creating a unified project aesthetic, storyboarding continues to be a powerful asset for Cuningham Group.