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The Evolution of Storytelling

A closer look at the most exciting and important changes to the art of telling a story

Storytelling is a shared part of our history as humans. For centuries and centuries, we’ve engaged each other by sharing experiences and stories, bonding and connecting as a group in the process.

Enter 2013, and storytelling looks a little bit different. We aren’t only gathering around the fireplace anymore, rubbing shoulders as we listen to an elder—we gather around our desktops alone, engaging with someone’s written word with the separation of a shiny screen. Storytelling has changed, there’s no doubt: yet what are some of the most exciting and important changes and developments that have taken place?

1. Visual is Equal to Spoken and Written

For the most part, people are no longer content with just reading words on a screen. The Internet is now so full of visual stimulation, we almost expect everything we encounter online to have a strong element of visual engagement—and if we don’t find that, we dismiss immediately. That’s why people are increasingly telling stories while keeping in mind the visual tools that can be used to enhance the experience. A great example of this is Pixel Fable. Created by interactive designer Senongo Akpem, Pixel Fable is a website that tells three Nigerain fables. Akpem has created a few of these kinds of impressive methods of storytelling, such as a series of photo essays about Nigeria, but this one in particular stands out for the aesthetic of the font and illustrations. It is a beautiful combination of simple storytelling and the visual bit of magic that creates a unique and memorable experience. Parallax scrolling keeps the reader engaged, while the detailed care and skill involved in the illustrations compliment the contemporary UX in a harmonizing and balancing way.

2. Speaking of Visual… Infographics are the new short story

More and more frequently, we are seeing Infographics used instead of or as compliments to news stories, cover features, etc. That’s because Infographics are effective ways of conveying information quickly to the audience while also showcasing the publisher’s ability to make something innovative, contemporary and forward-thinking. You can see prestigious publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian employing Infographics more often alongside regular new stories—The Guardian even has a separate website devoted to it. Otherwise, websites are popping up that are built around simple concepts to convey a simple message in an exceptionally effective fashion. Take Here Is Today, for example. Here Is Today is an Infographic that gives us some perspective on where we are located, time-wise, in comparison to the history of Earth. It’s simple, but the colour switches keep us entertained and the interactive is fluid enough to keep us clicking.

3. The Future Is Now: Stories that evolve as you do, too.

Earlier this year, The Silent History was released. The Silent History is an app that lets a story unfold over six months. Each week, a new chapter is released for you to read. The chapter comes in the form of a “testimonial” and is very bite-sized: something you can read on your way to work, or standing in line for a coffee. What’s really special about this, though, is that the story changes based on your location. If you are located at a certain point that correlates with the story, your device will pick up on your GPS and actually let you unlock another part of the story that can only be accessed from your location. Reviews of “The Silent History” were for the most part absolutely glowing, and no wonder: it’s a collaboration between Kevin Moffett, Eli Horowitz, Russell Quinn, and Matthew Derby.

However, no matter how much storytelling has changed, nothing can touch the root of what makes it effective: a really good story, and that’s it. That’s why MAKe’s manifesto is to put Content First. You can make things as pretty as you like, as user-friendly, and as digitally revolutionary… but if you aren’t saying something that matters and comes from the heart, your efforts will go to waste.

If you need help telling your story, contact us. We’d be glad to lend a hand.


Polina Bachlakova

Featured Contributor