The Visual Web: Developing Your Voice


Moderator: Jill Krause, Baby Rabies- Photographer


JC Little, The Animated Woman- Animation illustration
Melanie Perkins, Canva- Graphic Design
Vanessa Bell, Desumama- Photography

JC: Hi I'm JC and I'm an animator. But for real, I'm just like everyone else I blog on the web, but with animations and visuals.

Vanessa: This is my first speaking agent role, and I'm honored to be here.

Melanie: Founder and CEO at Canva. Idea 7 years ago when teaching people to design simpler in college.

Jill: Moderator for the session, and blogger at, which is not about my contagious children.

JC: I have the power! (picks up slideshow remote) I blog at TheAnimatedWoman. I do visual story telling, writing books, illustrating them and creating visuals that tell stories.

Why is visual storytelling important? I have 4 reasons:

Noise: There is a lot of noise out there. (BLAH BLAH BLAH- image) If you're a business, content marketer, or doing branded content- images will help you stand out in the pile. There are a lot of bloggers, but not a lot draw. And no one draws like you, whether you believe you can draw or not. No one has your particular visual voice.

Sticky Power: What is sticky power? People have short attention spans, they'd rather skim than read. So putting your message into pictures is the perfect way to be instantly seen and remembered. the image will stick, it has sticky power. some folks call this branding, I like to call it just being yourself, or authentic.

Brand: Using certain images or styles to become instantly rememorable.

Engage: Pictures grab people. If you draw it yourself you are using your own authentic visual voice and can engage on an emotional level. It becomes 2 way communication. People like to be heard, they like to be a part of the story, and like they feel heard.

Communication: Capture heards and minds of your audience with visual storytelling. Whether you draw it yourself or for someone else to do it for you, being able to think and express yourself visually will make you a better COMMUNICATOR. There are many ways to draw a picture, only you will see that image in your own unique way. Even with stick figures.

(Audience: A Picture says a thousand words)

JC: Value is added with a picture, it says things you could never say with words. You can tell a story anybody will understand no matter the language barrier. It is also fun and ads visual pacing. I'm going to discuss the visual tools I use. When I first started blogging there weren't a lot of tools online, it coast a lot of money, investing on software. Today there are many easy, fun, and free tools you can use.

Flash: I draw directly in flash (INTOUS4, Small) (Adobe) because I can animate them, I draw directly in the software using a WACOM pen tablet. I like not having my hand visible while I'm drawing, so the tablet helps me focus on the creation not what my hand is doing. It's Amazeballs. Many people are doing very funnny art with that and other freeware. Do not raw with a mouse, it is a recipe for carpal tunnel. INTOUS tablets are not expensive, about $75. If I'm not home I use the iPad, which offers me freedom to create visually on the go. I drew my dog on a plane to London, my mom at a cafe, and I drw 'The Kiss' at the Rodin museum. I like drawing statues because they hold very still. I draw with my stylus, but you CAN use your finger. If you get a stylus invest in a good one. For this rawing (slide) I used an app called Paper By 53. Apps range from a couple of dollars to $50+, I like the simple ones because they aid creativity. This app has a great sketching and watercolor pen function. The closest app to my flash blog style is Adobe Ideas, it's really simple. It's a vector app. I use it to do #ToonSwag (follow it with the blogher14 hashtag).

Promo Videos: Great way to promote and explain your work.

Animation: There is a lot to know, I couldn't hope to impart it on you. So I want to simplify it with a series of images. IF you can make a video with a series of images, that's really all it is = a slideshow of photos with narration. Quality is not important here, it can help, but the story and timing is crucial to conveying your message. You can have really, really, bad hard to look at drawings in a timeline, with narration, and it will be a great snappy film. If it's just a pretty film with no timing it will fall flat on impact.
If you want to do something like that, record your narration first, then time your video.,, (rcord videos or overlay graphics/text, some royalty free music, some add your own audio which is very important)

Keep it short, 30 sec to 3 mins. The story has to be REALLY compelling to keep interest past 3 minutes.

Audience Q: What do you think of 'In Plain English' which covered internet concepts, style, to tell stories. You can use the site to tell your own story as a generator
for those who cannot express themselves visually but have a story. (Splainervideos,

JC: I think its wonderful, anything communicating a concept is great. You don't want people admiring fantastic artwork and missing the message.

JC: What if I told you that you don't need to learn how to draw to illustrate a story. There's a simple technique, start with a line and dots. Use variations od lines and dots to illustrate differences. (similar to emoticons and stick figures.) These are effective communications skills. You don't need to draw on paper, but if you really have no device to draw on, USE PAPER. Tell a whole story with lines and dots on paper and take a photo of it, then upload. Or use your handwriting on your favorite paper with your favorite pen and take a photos of that.

Drawing is like an exercise, warm up with squiggles. Communicate ideas, not stories. (Funny One Liners, reference to her post online, most popular post) She shows how a single ling can take on personality when curved, angled,
dotted, or using different textures. Art is cool, but ideas and stories are what's important.

Melanie: Hi I'm Melanie and one of the cofounders and CEO at Canva. I've developed a program to help you feel like a designer, and apply branding through your blog and online presence. Do not feel intimidated, use the free program
that is Canva. The internet is growing at a phenomenal rate. There is more internet, more sites, more opinions every year. Visuals is the answer to standing out. They get more love.

Color Schemes: Pick 2-4 Consisten colors and use them throughout ALL your materials (look at Google or Virgin.) Neutrals, Neons, Monochromatic are some common themes that help build a color scheme visually. Primary, Secondary, Text, Icons (pick colors to identify with these elements.) Locate the colors with the html numbers/digits so you can use them uniformly not matter the creative platform.

Font Palettes: Choose a font that conveys your image and brand. Use it somewhere in ALL your materials. Title font: Very loud, Substitle font: Smaller than title and more subtle, Body font: Very easy to read

Photo Filters: Helps add quick styling/look/consistency of your brand that is memorable. You can apply branding to a concept or series, just use it consistently in your brand. IE: all holiday content one branding format, tutorials use consistent format, etc. Photo filters can really transform one image through multiple moods and initial impacts. You can choose a preset filter in Canva, or play with creating your own unique filter to help define your brand using: brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Tint, Blur, X-process, and Vignette adjustments. Canva will generate a unqiue filter code you can apply to all your content.

Consistency: Execute this by creating a unique series of posts or content. Use a unique title to brand yourself, keep fonts and visual key styling the same, post at the same time (weekly, monthly, daily) to help your readers associate with it.Use consistency in banners, a series of posts, and styling- it helps define you as the expert.

Vanessa: I'm going to speak to us as bloggers, and legacy is a word I identify with. We're going to discuss creating a storytelling formula, visualizing vulnerability, and identifying values.

Storytelling Formula: Your blog theme, design- what is it telling your reader? I love photography, my site is photo heavy- I wanted my header to be visual with an image that was candid (almost like sneaking a peek into our family.)
You are telling a story from the moment you are on that site. Decide do you weave text between pictures, or do you prefer to offer a photo and then go tell the story? Decide how you want to tell the story with formatting. Collages are great to tell a story.

Vulnerability: We all are real people. Even coming here and speaking with others is hard for some. The desire to be likable is there, and somtimes it means showing that side of you that you wouldn't normally show. Moments of vulnerability help create an embracable reaction. In relation to photography, when you're in the moment of taking the photos you might take a more specific/detail style shot, not necessarily the bigger picture.

Let Your Interests Serve Others: Make sure what you have to offer connects with others in a valuable way. Except that your story is evolving and changing every moment. Have a message that resonates with you to more effectively
communicate and connect through your passion.

Culture and Storytelling: I'm Latina and I try to infuse that in any way possible, though it is not always my focus. I make sure to understand what I'm depicting in my images. Creating an image is my mission. As soon as your reader sees the image they're making assumptions and weaving your words with the images to create an opinion and decide if they will be back or not. Find your voice and use images to define that.

Jill: It's important to show your vulnerability and imperfect moments- there's a push back against the Pinteresty perfect world, people want to see real people. Images don't have to be staged or framed, candid photos can help tell a story and capture a moment that is real. People appreciate photos that are real, it helps them connect to the imperfections in their own life. On sponsored content I like to make the product a character in my story, but not the main focus. I don't do hard sells. I create stories where the product happens to be a part of the post. Using a wide angle aperture will make gorgeous photos that are real because it naturally blurs out the dirty dishes, but looks authentic. Make your story images part of the package you are selling to them. These do not have to fancy images, they can be REAL instagram photos on the fly. Sometimes I'm stumped as to what to blog about so I capture moments that are unplanned and unexpected. Your life is a varying shade of what is happening to you, there's no one that says you have to show only the perfect side. (Convert everything to black and white, everything looks better *laughter*) Using the branding helps you stand out (even if people crop your logo out, it has your voice on the internet.) You can visualize and create memorable images even in Power Point.

Audience: Do you have any apps you absolutely love to create visual stories with.

Jill: Instagram, with its new embed feature. You can embed pictures online through the hub.

JC: I like Instagram as well. I share through Instagram to Twitter and Facebook directly. One thing I started doing was making movies on Instagram by splicing shots into a fun short film that's only 16 seconds. It's a live edit so there's no fussing after you shoot.

Vanessa: I love Instagram as well, especially since they have updated the controls for editing with filters and layers.

Melanie: Obviously I'm biased to Canva, who may be in the space soon. It's currently a completely free web app that I would strongly recommend.


Audience: I wanted to ask for the photography heavy blogs do you have a go to action that you use?

Jill: I used action in the beginning, but I don't really now. I'd encourage you as you grow to try and emulate the actions on your own in photography.

Audience: What is an action.

Jill: An action is a preset filter/combination of changes (like Canva offers) that you can apply to images to create a uniform editing effect.

Vanessa: I use Paint The Moon (The Action) exclusively. Today my focus is capturing true color and the richness of hues. These tools are not cheap, but help you brand and style. CoffeeShops Actions offer free actions.

Audience: With more people going to mobile are you finding a certain size image you are formatting with?

JC: I am creating more square and vertical images that are easier to share on Instagram and Pinterest (900x600 for Pinterest aspect ratio.) Consider screen real estate, Pinterest columns are locked which will take away from the space your image is occupying if it is not formatted correctly.

Melanie: Use the dimensions where you have most impact. Canva offers dimensions for every social network so you can style each social network with optimization.

Audience: Q for Canva- Once you create the image for one platform, does Canva help you alter the image for other platforms?

Melanie: Not yet, but we are working on it. You can save the image, and pull it up for other platform management.

Audience: Live Writer will help you visual what images will display like on other platforms.

Audience: I need an easy way to add text or a logo to my photos. I need a cheap solution.

Melanie: I would recommend Canva, it will let you add transparency to help format photos with your images.

Audience: I recommend Phonto to add a transparent logo or watermark.

Audience: Is there a photography tool you read to help you grow?

Jill: Clickin Moms or Book: Understanding Exposure, Beyond Snapshots (also book)

Vanessa: I focused on studying the fundamentals most. I used Start with the concepts, learn numbers later.

Audience: Do you have advice for what kind of images to use when you're blogging about something like pelvic pain.

JC: I'd draw something funny and bring some humor into it as a coping mechanism.

Vanessa: Use movement, play with angles to help bring moods to the photos to emphasize the pain or the areas of pelvic pain.

Melanie: You can also go metaphorical or symbolic. Perhaps an image of a tree for recovery, etc, not literal.

Audience: I am curious, how intentional are each of you with each social media platform.

Jill: I know certain images will respond well on certain platforms and put them out there. I use Instagram as a behind the scenes tool, and share quirky things on Facebook.

JC: On my blog I think about telling the story the best. I wont edit an image form myblog to Instagram if it's not naturally effective, but I may redesign it to be so.

Audience: Just advice for jumping into Photoshop?

Jill: For editing or graphics?

Audience: Editing

JK I prefer Lightroom, I'm pretty self taught on that.

Vanessa: Youtube is great for learning. I use Photoshop Elements ($50 and does what I need it to do.)

Jenna M Wood

Owner/Writer Momma Told Me and Time Out Truffles Blog
Manager of Blog POP! Events Group

woodpress08 (at) gmail (dot) com