How to turn your message into an engaging narrative

We discuss the thought process behind the creation of an engaging narrative.

“We know what we want to say, but we don’t know how to say it.” Does that sound familiar?

We often get confronted with this problem. Thankfully we know how to solve it. Experience has taught us that a message needs to be more than just a statement. It needs an engaging narrative to surround it.

Educating visitors on the home truths of animal care, these interpretation panels for animal rehoming charity Ferne Animal Sanctuary are a recent example of how we successfully developed an engaging narrative.

Please note the above visual is purely a representation of the final panel.

How we developed an engaging narrative…

“This animal is not suited to a domestic environment”

This was the statement we were tasked with communicating on a series of interpretation panels that would be positioned outside the Ferret, Chinchilla, and Pig enclosures.

By expanding on the ‘Why?’ we utilised the following design solutions and styles to expand the story and add meaning to the message.

1. Paw print rubbings — None of the animals are allowed to be handled by the public so we implemented this interactive feature to give visitors a chance to familiarise themselves with the size of the animal through touch. The inclusion of the paw print rubbings was designed to show the size of a single paw and dissuade people from wanting to own them.

2. Animal stats — The facts and stats were selected to show that the animal is either difficult or expensive to care for. We used visual cues to share information in a quick and easy to understand way. This method builds the narrative quickly.

The main panel features three different design styles. Each of which relates to a different level of narrative importance. Despite the mixed arrangement research has shown that readers will naturally look to boxes of the same style for information of a similar type.

3. Look and listen — The outlined boxes encourage users to look, listen and ultimately learn for themselves. The visitors who take it upon themselves to find out more will retain the information for longer.

4. Fun and interesting facts — The lighter of the green boxes tell the story of ‘lighter’ and lesser known animal facts. Further adding to both historical and anatomical understanding.

5. The animal’s perspective — The dark green boxes share stories from the imagined perspective of the animal. Written in the first person they provoke empathy among readers, whilst informing of the animals preferred habitat and diet.

This strategic placement of different parts of the narrative allows for and actually encourages, learning and understanding, whilst staying true to the original message. In turn, this extends the sustainability of the sign, within this ever-changing environment.

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