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How to create a consistent visual narrative

Whatever kind of work you're doing as a designer, whether you're in-house at an agency, juggling freelance commissions or building a portfolio of engaging side projects, you need to demonstrate your own visual expertise. 

While a big chunk of that is your ability to create the right imagery for any scenario, you also need to be able to take a wider view and ensure that the stories you tell through your work are visually consistent across all the media in which they might be used. Read on to discover three ways in which you can weave consistent visual narratives for clients, their customers, and for yourself.

01. Start with your portfolio

How to create a consistent visual narrative: Start with your portfolio

Ensure that your own portfolio flows in a coherent way (Image credit: iStock)

Your portfolio is one of your major calling cards for potential clients, and to demonstrate the breadth of your abilities it doubtless features a whole range of quite visually different work. And while that's a useful asset to have, you need to take care in the way all your work is presented so that it makes a strong visual statement to visitors. It's easy to just arrange your work chronologically, but unless, for example, you're an illustrator with a well-defined visual signature, the end result is likely to be a jarring mish-mash of styles.

If you want to make a good impression to potential clients, you need to think in terms of your own brand and craft a visually consistent portfolio that arranges your work in a way that flows smoothly. Every page should have a similar look and feel, and feature a selection of work that sits well together, even if the subject matter is markedly different.

A well-organised portfolio is much more likely to hold clients' attention than one that's all over the place visually, and it shows you're capable of thinking creatively and consistently while staying on-brand. You might want to try creating your own brand or style guide, and using that to create a stunning portfolio site shows off your work to best effect; it's a great way to display the full extent of your skills.

02. Search for imagery by colour

How to create a consistent visual narrative: Search for imagery by colour

Create an engaging visual thread by finding images featuring the same colour (Image credit: iStock)

Working as a designer often means that you're not just using your own imagery; you also have to work with complementary images from other sources, and if you want to create a sense of visual consistency then you need to be careful about the images you choose.

One way to do this is to decide on a common visual thread that links together all the imagery within a particular project, and colour can be the perfect strand that defines your visual narrative. And achieving this is easy when looking for imagery at iStock by Getty Images, as you can search by colour to get exactly the look you're after. 

Using iStock's colour picker – or simply searching for a particular hex code – you can easily find a whole stack of images in whatever shade you require. Even if they feature radically different content, with a strong thread of colour you can be sure of a consistent visual narrative, with the added bonus of a sense of variety.

03. Use the best-quality imagery

How to create a consistent visual narrative: Use the best-quality imagery

If your image quality's all over the place, people will notice (Image credit: iStock)

One of the most important ways of establishing a visually consistent narrative is to ensure that all your content is of the best possible quality. After all, there's nothing to turn people off like the sight of a badly scaled, over-compressed .JPG next to a much higher quality photo; it's bad for your reputation and even worse for your clients.

At iStock you'll find millions of top-quality images, from essential stock photography through to vectors that can be scaled to any size without any loss of clarity, as well as videos, cinemagraphs and much more. You can quickly and easily assemble all the high-quality visual assets you need to create a project with a consistent visual narrative, and thanks to iStock's affordable pricing you can do this without blowing your budget.

Visual consistency is a must in design, and iStock can help you achieve this with amazing imagery and search tools that make it easy to find what you need. Save 10% off any product by using the ISTOCK10 code before 30 September 2019.

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.