Category: Design

Content Marketing Design: The ‘Heart’ of the Matter

Content Marketing Design: The ‘Heart’ of the Matter

Will “heart” beat stronger in your content marketing plans for 2021? It’s a question that surfaced in a global webinar about brand expectations in which Imprint took part in last summer and a resounding 96% of attendees said yes. “Heart,” which is simply another way to talk about empathy and emotional engagement, has been a point of focus at Imprint in recent months. Weaving heart into messaging bolsters company goals—and that, of course, includes content design. As we approach the end of American Heart Month, Imprint’s design team discusses how highly visual content can stir emotions and make for deeper, more meaningful communications.

Keep it real and relatable

Ashley Brenner, Creative Director

Images are powerful, and they push buttons just like words. While part of the process is making sure that a photo or image is appealing, we also consider clients’ strategies and their audience, and messages being delivered. Stirring emotions with visuals doesn’t have to mean that it’s gut-wrenching or one big, emotive image. A photo of two people having coffee can bring a warm sense of optimism, uplift and connect because it’s real and relatable. During the pandemic we’ve been doing a lot of work with small businesses and striving for images that convey such confidence, as well as a sense of being forward-looking.

Tap the power of inclusivity

Craig Gartner, Art Director

One of our big focuses has been diversity and the emotional spark that ignites when people see themselves. For content about families and financial planning, for instance, look for photos that depict not only racial and ethnic diversity but a diversity of environments, homes and family compositions. Present images that feel candid, not canned or corny, and lend an element of surprise also fosters emotion. One way to add an unexpected touch is to apply a “tilt” effect in your photo editing or native layout app. By slightly tilting the image, you can make it register in a fresh way. Think of it like this: You’re on a flat road for miles and suddenly you make a banked turn—there’s something invigorating about that. It’s true for content, too.

Throw in an occasional curve

Pierce Kinnally, Visual Designer

Being engaged with reality and connecting with people on an emotional level go hand-in-hand. An article about family security, for instance, might include imagery of a child seeing a grandparent through a screen or two people exchanging an elbow bump. Color can create an emotional connection, and so can shapes. Circles are friendly. They can be incorporated in a layout or a visual element that adds subtle warmth, such as with a curvy pie chart instead of an angular bar graph.

How do you spark emotions through your content design? Email us at or ping us on LinkedIn.

Photos That Maximize Content Impact

Photos That Maximize Content Impact

By Imprint Team

Photographs have superpowers when it comes to evoking emotions. A single picture can spark wonder, warm hearts, invite laughter, inspire confidence, and stir thought. In appreciation of World Photography Day on August 19, we asked our Creative Director Ashley Brenner and Art Director Craig Gartner to focus on how they make sure photos maximize the impact of content. Here’s what developed.

What goes into your image selection process?

Brenner: Whether we’re shooting original pictures or using photo libraries, we consider various criteria, but always start with the intended audience. We keep in mind the tone and the specific message clients want to come through in the visual language. We also keep humanity and empathy in mind and consider what people are going through. A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but there are times when an image seeks to evoke salient key words, whether it’s optimism, expertise, or innovation. 

Gartner: There’s a lot of detective work. Finding photos that precisely convey a client’s message is like mining for gold. Sometimes success comes by being literal when you search. Sometimes it takes a more imaginative or metaphoric approach. 

Has COVID-19 changed the process?

Brenner: Yes, it has added another emotional layer that we need to be conscientious and thoughtful about. It goes back to the idea of having empathy.

Can you tell when a photo is, well, picture perfect?

Brenner: The words are the brand’s voice. Words matter. Visuals matter. It’s not one or the other. When they marry up and become something interconnected with each other is when messaging becomes very clear and very impactful. For a story about small business owners working during the pandemic we ask ourselves, what does that look like? It could look like people further apart from each other and people with masks on. It could look like business owners going into their store by themselves or talking with people on the phone or by videoconferencing. It could show contactless payments. Those are the kinds of behaviors that can come across through pictures.

Gartner: If the copy can speak to key words and then the photos speak to the copy it creates one beautiful, connective stream. That’s the goal. For a story about smart financial moves to make for the future, one possible visual could show trails diverging in a forest, with one going left and one going right to suggest the need for decision-making.

Do clients help narrow choices for visuals?

Brenner: All clients want to make sure that visual imagery and tonality differentiates them, so there are definitely individual client styles. Some prefer straightforward visual approaches, while others take a less literal route. Depending on the preference, one headline, such as “How to Make the Most of your Retirement,” leads to a variety of perspectives and picture opinions. A literal choice could be a closeup of an older couple enjoying a happy moment. A metaphoric choice might suggest the life journey and show the couple walking up a hill. 

Is there one overarching mandate for visuals?

Gartner: Authenticity, above everything, is what’s essential right now. In a story about what the office of the future might look like, for instance, images showing a large cluster of people wouldn’t be appropriate, but a photo of people giving each other an elbow bump instead of shaking hands could address the current reality. Nothing should look pat, set up, or contrived. If you have a relatable photo that looks like you could have been in that picture, and it has the client brand firmly and distinctly in mind, then you’ve got your picture.

Staying Creative In A Crisis

Staying Creative In A Crisis

In our latest video post, IMPRINT team members share the ways content has changed and how we’ve adapted to maximize collaboration and creativity internally and especially with clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. A brief look at what’s been learned and put into action includes:

  • Communication is everything, inside and out. Using technology that enables you to see your colleagues and clients is invaluable.
  • Getting back to basics and taking a truly empathetic approach to understanding and responding to a client’s urgent needs are musts.
  • Collaboration is key — and that includes you.

Have you come up with great creative approaches to content? Or, are you struggling with a project? Either way, we are holding office hours and invite you to reach out to us and schedule a session.  Email us at

Content That Outlasts The Oscars

Content That Outlasts The Oscars

Why interactive video grabs attention—and holds it.


Quick: Who won the Best Actor Oscar last year? Can’t remember, can you?

That’s because the annual Academy Awards ceremony—coming up Sunday, February 9—is built for one thing: immediate impact. America works itself into a lather right till the stars hit the red carpet. And then, like clockwork, the event lumbers through 3-plus hours and the entire night promptly vanishes into the ether.

Oscar certainly knows how to grab attention—but falls way short when it comes to stickiness. Which is a luxury those of us in the content business do not have. Yes, we need to engage our clients’ audiences. But without messages that land and stay with those audiences—and drive action—there will be no statuettes for us.

Which brings me to video. We all know that in a digital space increasingly dominated by motion and visual stimulation, video delivers impact. In two years, Cisco research has predicted, 82% of worldwide internet traffic will come from video downloads.[1]

Last year, the average person spent six hours and 48 minutes a week watching online videos, up a remarkable 59% from 2016, according to Limelight figures. [2]

But will those videos sustain engagement? Will click-happy viewers stay with the story long enough to remember its key message? Often, the answer is no—which is why we’re increasingly turning to interactivity. As their name suggests, interactive videos require something more than eyeballs. Instead of simply passively viewing a video, viewers can actually get involved and that helps to retain a message. Select a chart for deeper information. Choose the outcome you’d most like to see. Design this room to suit your taste.

More involvement means more engagement. Consider a Magna study that found digital users spent 47% more time on interactive video ads than their one-way cousins. [3]

If a video is made well — with a compelling story arc, graphics and music — you might watch a 90-second video on the growth of an Indian paint company. But metrics show that if we give you the power to tap on a graphic to elicit more information particularly interesting to you — if we move you to more active involvement — you’re more likely to stay till the end. And more importantly, to remember the information and take further action.

We’re continuing to dig deeper to find new ways to make video and all content more effective at connecting our clients with their audiences. While Hollywood buzzes over Oscar, we’ll keep our eyes planted firmly on that prize.


[1] Cisco.

[2] Limelight.

[3] Magna.

Psychology in Design: What Makes Images Effective

Psychology in Design: What Makes Images Effective

This summer, our intern Ronin Rodkey did research on how psychology can inform the design of good content. The following article is the last in a three-part series explaining his core findings. You can read the first article here and the second here.


We previously looked at the role more symbolic elements of design—like colors, shapes, or graphs—play in helping us process information. This article, by contrast, examines the role that images and symbols rooted in the real world play in our perception of material.


[Left: A side view of a golden retriever, a familiar dog from a familiar view. Right: A Pekingese from the front, an unfamiliar dog from an unfamiliar view.]

In the two side-by-side images from above, you probably identified the image on the left as a dog very, very quickly—probably within milliseconds of seeing it. The dog on the right—which is somewhat less classically dog-shaped than the first—probably took longer.

This is because humans are quite good at getting the “gist” of familiar images, but going beyond that can be more challenging. Show someone a picture of a street scene, a stop sign, or a tree, and their brains will very quickly connect that image to their stored memory of such visuals. Experiments have even shown that we are still quite good at perceiving the gist of images even if they are blurred or otherwise obscured[1].

Our brains are also quite good at assigning meaning to those images. When shown a picture of a dog, people are usually quick to make the connection of its being loyal, friendly, or playful. Show someone a picture of a mother and a child, and they can quickly assign emotion to the image.

There is one important caveat to this: Images must be easily identified. Our conceptions of things are based on prior experiences. People cannot be relied on to identify a dog breed they aren’t familiar with, or identify a street scene from an unusual perspective.

So what does this mean for design? Including simple imagery in content or advertisements can be a very effective way to help consumers derive meaning from materials with just a single glance—no need for sustained attention.








For example, in the above Facebook ads, Survey Monkey uses pictures effectively and Safari does not. Assuming the Survey Monkey ad is targeting people who play Playstation, someone scrolling past would be able to quickly identify the ad as depicting a Playstation controller—no reading required. They may stop scrolling to see if the ad is relevant to them.

While the Safari ad certainly has strengths, someone scrolling past who is interested in reading might not link Safari to books. Their picture displays their logo against what looks like a subway map; it fails to quickly inform consumers about the product at hand.

In data visualization, effective use of imagery can help readers quickly create connections between data and what the data is depicting. For example, the below chart on NFL injuries helps us easily make sense of where players sustain the most injuries; the below chart on pet statistics uses pictures and symbols to help us more easily register what each of the rows refers to.










In short, when images are presented to us in familiar ways—when we see scenes that we can easily grasp the gist of—the brain can quickly process and assign meaning to them.



Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware

Good Charts by Scott Berinato

Oliva, Aude, and Antonio Torralba. “Building the gist of a scene: The role of global image features in recognition.” Progress in brain research 155 (2006): 23-36.Pieters, Rik, and Michel Wedel. Gripping the Gist: What Ads Communicate in a Single Glance. Working paper, Tilburg University, 2009.

[1] Olivia and Torralba

Psychology in Design: Why Infographics Work

Psychology in Design: Why Infographics Work

This summer, our intern Ronin Rodkey did research on how psychology can inform the design of good content. The following article is the second in a three-part series explaining his core findings. You can read the first article here.


So far, we’ve learned why our brains more easily pick up on certain types of visual information. This article will examine why we would choose to use visual information over text in the first place—such as in infographics.

An infographic is 30 times more likely[1] to be read than a text article and three times more likely to be shared[2] on social media than any other type of content. They are considered much more engaging than traditional articles because consumers like engaging with visual content more than text—we’ve all felt relief after coming across a picture in an article that’s text-dense.

One reason why infographics are so effective is because while reading text is something we learn to do in school, interacting with visuals is something we’ve been primed to do from birth. About half of cerebral structures in our brains have a direct relation to visual function; while we have to decipher text word-by-word, visual processing can happen all at once, and much more efficiently. That’s part of why colored visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% and why images can substantially improve people’s retention of such content.

Infographics also allow us to pair concrete images with abstract concepts. Research has shown that people are much better at remembering concrete terms (“dog,” “walking,” “Africa,” “green”) as opposed to abstract ones (“idea,” “engagement,” “communism”). Infographics assign visual representations to abstract terms, helping us process them better. For example, it’s hard to imagine what a 12% increase in web traffic or a 30-fold increase in views looks like without a visual reference.

As an added bonus, the format of infographics increases their shareability. A link to an article may only be displayed as text on social media or instant messaging, whereas infographics—which are often JPEGs or PNGs—are displayed as a whole on most platforms, making them more convenient and attractive for viewing.

OK, so if visuals are so great, why don’t I write this whole blog post in emojis? To answer that question, think about how you would draw a picture of the following sentence:

“I like to work in the library, but if it is too crowded, or if Rosa is there, I prefer the coffee shop.”

It’s quite hard, isn’t it? There’s a limit to how far visuals can go. Words like “if,” “otherwise,” “but,” or “while” are very difficult to draw, as they involve a form of abstract reasoning which is tough to put in the form of a picture. It is best to acknowledge that there is a limit to what can and should be represented pictorially.

Put simply, infographics allow us to balance thinking and seeing. They appeal to the more primitive parts of our brain which process visual information, while incorporating enough text to better help us process the information we’re looking at. This makes them a very valuable marketing resource.

So far, we’ve mostly looked at visualizations from a more abstract perspective. Next, in our final piece, we’ll look at how images can also be effective in appealing to the primitive parts of our brain, and what that means for marketing and advertising.



Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware

Milovanovic, Dragana, and Leo Ivanisevic. “Infographic as a marketing communication tool.” 2014 New Business Models and Sustainable Competition Symposium Proceedings. 2014.




Psychology in Design: Why Things “Pop” (and Why They Don’t)

Psychology in Design: Why Things “Pop” (and Why They Don’t)

This summer, our intern Ronin Rodkey did research on how psychology can inform the design of good content. The following article is the first in a three-part series explaining his core findings.

Odds are that when you first opened this post, you noticed what was speshial about the fourth word in this sentence, but not the fourteenth. Why is that? Why is it easier for us to notice aesthetic differences in text, but relatively harder for us to recognize spelling mistakes?

The short answer is that our brains are not hard-wired to know the correct spelling of “special.” Nobody is born knowing how to spell words or even understanding what writing and the alphabet mean—but the mechanisms in our brains which can pick up on differences in color and size are hard-wired and subconscious, working automatically whenever we see something.

Basically, when we see things, our brains first work to pick up on differences in low-level features—color, size, orientation, motion, and depth—before moving on to detecting patterns within those features based on learned experiences. We sometimes say that these features are picked up on “preattentively”—meaning we notice them quickly, before other aspects of the visual.

Image caption: The MTA subway map uses white circles (or elongated circles) to display transfer points. Had they instead used black squares, the map would be much harder to read.

For example, you will notice a car is red before you notice it is a Toyota. In a parking lot full of 100 white Toyotas, one red Toyota, and one white Honda, it will be much easier to pick out the red Toyota than the Honda.

In fact, in that parking lot, our eyes will probably travel to the red Toyota before anything else. We are automatically attracted to differences in low-level features. Take the following graph, for example:

You probably noticed the blue and red lines—and the fact that they intersect—before you read the title of the chart or the axes. This is because they represent the biggest difference in terms of color and shape when compared to the background.

Designers should be mindful of these psychological phenomena when creating visuals. For example, the two charts below display the same data, but the first does it much more effectively.




Walmart jumps out at us in chart number one because the states where it’s the biggest employer are grouped together and are the same color—our eyes preattentively pick up on Walmart’s dominance via contrasts in size and color. In the second chart, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and North Carolina stand out first as the only red states on the map, even though these states aren’t the most important takeaway.

Preattentive processing is also worth noting when creating infographics. For example in the infographic to the right, from the Atlantic, our eyes are not first drawn to the central thesis—that it costs more to keep a prisoner in jail than pay for college tuition—but instead to (1) the dark images, which become distracting during reading, and (2) the data represented with many colors, such as the visual comparing African Americans in dorms and in prison. The designers should have taken into consideration the most important information to ensure that it stood out preattentively.

In part two of this series, we look at infographics again and examine why they work, and what makes them more compelling than pure text articles.



Good Charts by Scott Beridano

Visual Thinking for Design by Colin Ware

3 Benefits to Visualizing Content

3 Benefits to Visualizing Content

We are creatures of habit. We gravitate towards what we know. So it’s not surprising that many firms still regularly publish long-form articles as their go-to thought leadership. But they may be missing a key opportunity: well-designed, accessible graphical content can be an effective strategy for both B2B and B2C communications.

Why? Three reasons:


1. Audiences are more likely to understand and remember

Your audience is busy, so help them prioritize information. Graphics can help organize and convey information quickly and simply. Visual content also brings a benefit in its stickiness, especially compared to other content types. If you hear a piece of information, you’re likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. [1] But add a picture, and the recall rate increases to 65% — an invaluable technique for marketers looking to educate their audiences.[2] And this technique is even more relevant for marketers in highly regulated industries from finance to pharma, who regularly relay complex statistics or detailed research.

2. Audiences are more likely to read and respond

If audiences can see in advance that content is going to take up less time and energy, they’re more likely to read it in the first place. Articles that include infographics generate an average of 178% more inbound links and 72% more views than all other posts.[3]

Even just coloring visuals has been shown to increase willingness to read content by 80%.[4] Infographics build brand recognition by strengthening perceptions of your business and its messaging.

3. Visual content is more multi-channel friendly

Importantly, infographics can be used again and again across multiple channels. A striking visual can be a great way of linking marketing campaigns across platforms. And simply including visuals will likely increase your content’s reach—visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media.[5]

Few other adjustments to your creative process will make as much of an impact as incorporating graphical elements into your content strategy. I encourage you to identify at least one area to implement an infographic in your next content project.


Want to know more about how infographics can become a part of your content mix?

You can contact me at





[2] ibid.




Q&A with Ashley Brenner of Imprint, a Sullivan Content Lab, on Visual Content Best Practices

Q&A with Ashley Brenner of Imprint, a Sullivan Content Lab, on Visual Content Best Practices

Our Take

Imprint’s own Ashley Brenner lends her thoughts on Best Practices in Visual Content in this Q&A with the Content Council.


Ashley Brenner is a Creative Director at Imprint, a Sullivan Content Lab, and winner of The Content Council’s 2014 Best Creative Designer Award. We recently sat down with her to learn what she’s been up to since her win and learn what goes in to creating stand out visual content.


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