5 Ways to Inspire Imagination through Simple Visual Storytelling


 Images are key. Customers want compelling visuals. Why?  Simple, tweets and posts of all kinds that include images are more frequently shared and liked, and tend to generate more buzz. Our customers are often surprised at how we can deliver something custom and compelling, for low cost. In this article I'll show how to let your reader’s imaginations run wild through imagery. The brilliance of this is the simplicity. We’re going to use only two envelopes in some sample images for this post. You’ll see how the context, and some subtle changes alter the emotional response you feel.

This post is about imagination. How do you inspire imagination? By providing fewer details. By providing less detail, your reader has no choice, their mind will fill in the gaps. Their experiences, emotional state, and passions will add meaning to the image. When done right, those emotions can touch passions and anxieties that compel action. 

Red Envelope on a Pillow

Let’s start with a simple red envelope on a pillow. 


How does it make you feel? Think about what you see. A pillow, on a bed. Intimacy. The envelope goes to a card. Cards are usually good. The fact that the envelope is red may mean love. You’re processing all of these things and wondering, wondering what’s up with that card. Curiosity. That’s a huge emotion. That’s the jackpot for content marketing, because if they’re curious, they’ll keep reading!

You can use an image like this to evoke an emotional response and then guide it. This might be used for a post titled, “Did you remember your anniversary?”  You can also put a different spin on it, “Is this really the best way to say I love you?”

Red Envelope with a Heart

Now let’s change it up just a bit. Here’s a red envelope with a heart.


Now the image is setting the emotional mood much more. It still has the intimacy, and this might leave your audience a little less curious, as they know the card is about love. It’s a good thing. But, you have something else working for you now – mystery. Where you might have had some, ever so slight, hesitation at opening the blank card, this is a card you probably want to rip open. You want to get to the prize. If your audience likes romance, intimacy, and prizes, they’ll be engaged.

Lipstick on a Card

But, as a friend of mine asked, “What if a guy is looking at that?”  Okay, how about a slightly different version?


Yes, the lipstick is photo-shopped because my lipstick kisses just aren't that compelling, but you get the point. Most guys would rush to open this. These images help create a mood, and drive expectation. Another great thing for content marketers.

This type of image might be used in, a story on father’s day gifts, or on a list with romantic suggestions for couples, “How to say thank you for all he does?”

Plain Envelope on a Pillow

Now let’s change it up again. The plain envelope on the bed. 


Does the image change your emotional response? The intimacy is still there, it is a letter left on a pillow. But the positive emotions are gone. This isn’t a card, it’s a letter. It might be a good thing, but that’s not my emotional response. This makes me nervous?  How about you?  Reader curiosity is heightened substantially with this image.

The words surrounding this will drive the emotional reaction. Look at the image and think of your response to the following titles:

  • This is why they make greeting cards, dummy. This is creative and funny. It diffuses the tension almost immediately. If someone is clueless enough to leave in intimate or romantic note on a pillow using a plain envelope, they probably need a little advice. Might be a good image of an article on better communication.

  • Is communication with your spouse suffering? Again, this diffuses the anxiety and tension, and might work well on a piece about better communication.

  • Don’t be the last to know. This keeps the anxiety and tension right where they are. It might be used by in an article about signs that spouses or significant others are cheating.

What’s in a Name?

Now let’s add a simple, hand-written name to the envelope.


How does this make you feel? What do you think is about to happen? For me, it increases the anxiety a bit. There’s a message in that envelope, and there’s no mistaking who it’s for. The fact that it’s a plain envelope compounds the anxiety. I’m not expecting anything good to come out of this for Tom. You may have a different view. The written content, other images, or context can use the anxiety created and play on the emotional connections.

A slight change in the name makes a lot of difference.


How does this image make you feel? You probably feel a little differently because the gender has changed. The more closely people connect to something, the more strongly they feel. Men will likely connect more to the letter with Tom’s name, because whatever is happening, is happening to a man. Likewise, women will likely connect more to the letter with the female name because the image is about something that’s happening to a woman.

There are also a couple of subtle differences that may affect the emotions elicited from the letter with the woman’s name. First, the woman’s full, formal name is used. Not Jan, or Jennie, but Janet. Formal, and, in my opinion, a little more ominous. Second, that image shows more of the empty bed. It connects more deeply with loneliness. Absent, gone, abandoned, left, are all words you might use to describe the feelings it evokes.