Why stories are critical in animations

Why stories are critical in animations

Have you seen The Incredibles? Or Toy Story? Or Disney’s Little Mermaid? They’re gorgeous aren’t they? They have incredible animation and the universal nature of the themes are just captivating. But you know what? They would be nothing without the story. Sure, the songs are nice and the characters are really appealing, but the thing that certainly separates Disney/Pixar from many other animation houses and films is their obsession with story.  

The business world can learn a lot from these experts when it comes to conveying messages with impact and connection. 


Using a strong story as the backbone to an animation.  


Wouldn’t it be great if the stories we heard as adults in boardrooms and offices, we spend so much of our time in, had the same joy, detail, creativity and appeal as Paddington, The Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland? 

So why did the passing of information become so, well, dull? When did we replace the story of a journey ahead with an excel spreadsheet? Or tales of success with a generic email? Perhaps the digital age has a part to play here, in anonymising the human and the emotion behind story. But that shouldn’t mean that we should do without it.  

“Stories are data with soul”

Brené Brown

This is one of our favourite quotes. So when we are creating an animation, we hold story at the very centre. The aim of our animations is always to inform, often to connect to the audience on an emotive level and to encourage understanding.

And like all the best stories we make our animations to be shared. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to us to hook the key messages to a story or a metaphor that people can understand, recognise and get behind. The trick is finding that story that will work for you and your ultimate goal. And that is the tricky part, but it doesn’t have to be.   


Story Types to use in animations


We first begin by helping you to identify what kind of story are you trying to tell. There are only 7 basic plots, according to Christopher Booker in his book Why we tell stories.   

  1. Overcoming the monster 
  2. Rags to riches
  3. The quest
  4. Voyage and return 
  5. Rebirth
  6. Comedy 
  7. Tragedy 

Interested in more detail on the story types you can use?

Most of us in the world of work would only really be focused on telling stories 1- 5 to our workforce. If you are looking to tell 6 or 7, well, perhaps you are more suited to a career at the RSC…  

Once you have identified what kind of story it is you are trying to tell, we stand a much better chance of being able to create an animation that will have the desired impact and make a richer, more personal connection with its viewer.

So next time you are asked to consider the narrative or you want people to really ‘get’ the message you are trying to convey, don’t respond with an email or an excel spreadsheet. Think what it would look like as a story, as an animation.

Want some help bringing your message to life? Drop Danielle a line on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or call the Monster team on +44 (0) 1926 311347

Why use visuals rather than text in communications

Why use visuals rather than text in communications

People are reading a lot less. 

It is slightly contradictory that the topic of this article is how visuals are often better than text at communicating information, and yet here we are, wading through some text together… And I say we, because we have entered into a strange contract – me as the writer with something to say, you as the recipient, trying to make sense of what the message is. It’s hard to replace text when you want to communicate details, but if you want to grab the attention of your audience, give them a feel for what the information is, rapidly convey a concept or idea, or just communicate in a different way, there’s nothing like a visual image. 


Research shows that people are reading a lot less, for many reasons.  

Information overload is all around us – at work and at home. When was the last time you read every single line of Apple’s privacy T’s and C’s? Or read the instruction manual on a new gadget fully before you used it? Even this article, two paragraphs in, will have been too much for some people and they will have stopped reading and moved on. (If you are one of them, it’s probably too late to say goodbye, but we hope you come back soon…) We are all busy people, and the countless apps and programmes and systems and processes that are meant to make things easier can just add their own noise. We have stuff to be doing and if we need to know something, we will spend as short a time as possible finding it out. So, if you need to communicate something, it needs to stand out from the rest of the clutter of daily life.  


Studies have shown that we only retain around 20% of things we read. 

That means that for every five paragraphs you write, only one will be remembered… that is, if the recipient has time to read it in the first place… So, as we reach paragraph number three, the irony meter goes off the scale… but for those of you who do like to read, thanks for making it this far! 

 37% of the population are visual learners and visuals can be processed at 60,000 times faster than text. Here’s an example. If you look at a picture of a ham and mushroom pizza, you get what it is immediately. If you got a list of words describing the pizza, it would take you a bit longer to work out what was being talked about. And yet, often the default attitude in business is to tell you about the thin slices of Parma ham and the type of mushrooms used…  

Visuals are also great at getting both parts of the human brain to work together


They encourage collaboration between the logical and more cognitive left side of the brain, with the more creative and intuitive right-hand side. But enough describing pizzas. Look at the picture. 

Just don’t think about how much time you would have saved if you’d looked at it first…

If you want to tap into our visual storytelling skills then the best person to contact is our resident visual creator Alana. Contact her on alana@purplemonster.co.uk or by calling the office on +44(0)1926 311347 and asking to speak to the Award Winning Visual Creator. 

Do you need some tips on how to make a dry topic interesting?

Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

Disruptive Thinking- Scarman, 17th April 2018

“Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it…”

Clayton M Christiansen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in the mid-1990s, defining it as:

“a process by which a product or service starts with simple applications at the bottom of a market – often servicing an need that is not currently being met by the current incumbents of that field – and, from this foothold, relentlessly moves up-market, changing the environment, and, sometimes, displacing the established competition.”

It’s come to mean more. It’s become a zeitgeist word, bandied about as a new, exciting successor to creativity and innovation, and people seem to think they want it.

Or do they?

Whether people want to disrupt at industry, company, or team level. The first step is to question the currently accepted position… take the music industry as an example…

Where it was… What happened when the established belief was questioned…
Music is a physical product, sold in albums and singles on vinyl and cassette. Music is rented when you need it through Spotify, Amazon and iTunes. People create their own albums as they want to.
Sharing music is terrible. “Home taping is killing music!” Sharing music is to be encouraged as it builds interest, momentum and profile for artists. By turning music into a subscription service, Spotify has made the record collection of the whole world available to everyone.
Artists have to have a recording contract to get their music distributed. Artists control their own output, using the power of their fanbase to produce what they want to make, and what the fans want to consume. Companies like Apple do exclusive deals with artists to make their product available to consumers.
Recording live concerts damages the artists’ product and reputation. Live concerts are an experience that can be added to. Recordings of the gig you have just been to are available – at a price above the price of a live album – on the night of the gig, so the experience lives on for the people who were there.
And when digital is everything… People want vinyl. They want the physical experience of music. They want everything that digital no longer gives them!

“Something’s going on, a change is taking place…”

Things have to fall into place. The environment, timing and technology does have to support it, but disruption often comes from understanding the commercial outcomes and then reverse engineering from that outcome. Consider customer experience. Would people like their bills generated immediately? Enter Tonik Energy…

Disruption can be on a very simple scale but can have huge impact by really focusing on specifics that can meet customer needs better than the current offers. Patanjalimanaged to beat well established household good brands such as P&G and Unilever by focusing on an unserved customer group (natural products) and not adopting market established paradigms (such as having a large advertising spend).

The key is keeping close to the customer problem you are trying to solve.

New technology can open up obvious new markets, but can also create whole new markets. Everyone – or just about everyone – has access to the video capabilities of a smartphone. Why not offer them training, so they can make professional quality videos, without engaging a professional company, or purchasing expensive kit? Customer trends can drive whole industries and the best disruptors are those that can exploit those trends, especially if they can offer it in bitesize content.

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow. -Ovid

The fear of failure, however, can stop people taking action. Ideas can die very quickly if not supported, so how do you respond to the ideas people come to you with? Do they get killed with a sneer or a yawn, or do you take a default “yes” approach?

Not seeing the world how it has been but being open to new trends as they develop is a key skill for people who want to work with, rather than against disruptive influences. Look at the rejuvenation of what was once considered an “elderly” market. People who would once have moved into a grey netherworld are becoming more aspirational and better connected – and new trends and new markets are opening up for older people who want to travel the world.

The instant gratification, and always-on solution that is driven by our increasingly app-based culture is providing impetus to rapid disruption, both on the demand side, and, through widespread social media, instant connectivity and high levels of visibility across industries. Disruption in one industry can be inspired by a completely different industry.

This calls for a laser sharp focus on what you are trying to achieve, and most importantly, what your customer is demanding from you… for example Chiltern Railways overcoming a traditional obstacle of lack of station facilities and simply building their own station.


“When problems come along, you must whip it…”

To adopt a disrupter’s mindset you have to see the barriers or obstacles that currently exist – or the threats to your current model that are manifested in the “desire paths” that your customers are taking to meet needs that you are not currently serving – as opportunities to be exploited, even if they appear to defy conventional wisdom for your industry. Sometimes it helps to consider what your overall product or service offering feels like for customers. Do you have an attention to detail over and above your competitors? Is something being missed that people would value?


F.E.A.R… Freeing Excellence Affects Reality

If you want to encourage disruptive innovation at a team level, it has to be obvious that support and permission is granted from the top down, even though the reality of taking on challenges and looking for new approaches will inevitably result in failure. The established culture – in life, society and business – can often mean that experimentation and failure is not celebrated and indeed, is often punished.

How can leaders or teams help to celebrate failure? “Failure cake” that is handed out at Tonik is one way of making light of people making genuine mistakes in their attempt to make improvements. Sometimes, you just have to stand up and celebrate with the “failure bow”. Don’t be ashamed of failure. The person who never made a mistake, never made anything.

It requires some personal reflection too. How comfortable are you as the leader or your leadership team with failure and risk? And what structures will you, as a leader, need to establish so that creativity and innovation can flourish without creating chaos and efforts being focused in the wrong area?


Tips for encouraging creative thinking and therefore more disruptive ideas are:

  • Hire well – don’t just hire on technical skills but hire for cultural fit and individual desire to keep developing and their ability to challenge in a constructive way.
  • Ensure that principles for decision making are clear from the top and provide guidelines for how people should act. This will give people a compass when they need to make decisions.
  • Look external for inspiration – don’t just look at your own industry.
  • Consider what you are measuring and how that is driving decisions and activity – if you change what you measure you are likely to change what people focus on.
  • Find a way to celebrate failure, so the word “failure” is not seen as a bad thing, but as a necessary step to refine thinking, remove doubt, and tighten the focus on what needs to be done.
  • Could Improv skills help you and your team be more confident with uncertainly and building skills in building on ideas? Would they benefit from learning to embrace ambiguity and change, operate from a “yes, and” position, provide mutual support and hold multiple thoughts while moving towards a common goal?
  • Where are the clichés in your business, and what would happen if you reversed them? What established practices are you simply sticking to but are restricting your ability to innovate and disrupt? What benefits could result from Re-inventing Organisations?


We do business differently, experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to do business, connect with people and get results. Different ways to learn and share outside of the normal taught approach, common in workshops, business schools and L&D environments across the globe. If you want to become involved, please sign up here to learn more.

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A quick, easy and cheap way to create strong relationships in the workplace. Too good to be true?

A quick, easy and cheap way to create strong relationships in the workplace. Too good to be true?

Communication is a big issue isn’t it? We said communication is a big ….oh, never mind…here’s a quick question…Do you use IM?


The answer to that question may differ depending on your age. Careful…Don’t start making bold broad statements about age in the workplace – you’re delving into dangerous HR territory here. Well, here is some data.

45% of millennials say that their preferred communication tool is Instant Messaging, whilst 36% of baby boomers think it’s the least effective. Collaboration Trends and Technology: A Survey of Knowledge Workers, Dimensional Research, 2015

 23 years ago when Purple Monster was set up, IM didn’t exist. Text phones were beginning to get traction in the workplace but you couldn’t see that someone was typing you a reply. Email wasn’t yet universally used and the idea that we could work remotely as well as we do now was simply unthinkable. It’s much more common now for us all in our company, (millennials, Gen Z’ers, baby boomers, generation X’ers) to not immediately drop an email to each other, or indeed to our clients.

Regarding our clients and the way we work together, if we’re ‘federated’, we will ping them an IM if we can see that they’re free. Often, we will get a reply instantly and even more often, people will hit the talk button and we’ll turn it into a conversation (they’re still reluctant to use video – but that’s another article…)

Speaking of IM, as a visitor to our website, you might have noticed that we also have our own IM chat box available, so that we can get visitor feedback, comments and questions in real time. Faster than email, and manned by one of the Monster team, it’s a good way to start building that instant human connection.

10 years ago, we fundamentally believed that face to face communication was the very best way of ensuring the highest levels of ‘engagement’ and the best way to ‘build relationships’. You may think it still is. We’re not so sure anymore. You have to treat situations and individuals differently. And if you want your business to run differently you will have to embrace all the many and varied different communication channels that currently exist. Who knows what the next advancement will be?

5 years ago, WhatsApp didn’t exist. As a company we now use WhatsApp every day and if you could see the feed you really wouldn’t be able to believe that we are a serious, focussed, professional organization who believes in doing things differently to get different results. You might think we were a bunch of fools playing with a new toy who have got a little bit over excited. This was earlier this month…


We think this reflects our culture. We wouldn’t pretend that our culture was perfect and that we get communication right all the time but what it does prove is we don’t all have to be in the same place at the same time to enjoy each other’s company.

What success have you experienced with Instant Messaging? Do you have a WhatsApp group for your team? How do you find it works for you?

Process and journey maps part 2: how do I create one?

Process and journey maps part 2: how do I create one?

Is it a process or a journey?

We begin by having an initial discussion to establish what your challenge is, and if it is a process that needs communicating, or a journey that needs sharing. We’ll also discuss timelines, audiences and budget. The commercial magic then happens and we have a scope of work- we can begin the mapping!

Where on earth do we start?!

We will cover off what the focus areas are and what the most important message is to convey throughout the piece. This could be one particular area, or several areas impacted, with several messages, or one clear one. This step can historically be the most challenging part, as we’ll need to ensure that we understand your process or journey and you equally will need to be happy that you have covered all of the points you need to. This stage is a lot of talking from you and a lot of furious note-taking by us! Our artist will be present during these conversations and will be thinking about how we can visually represent everything. The more information and context we can gather, the better informed we will be.

Ok, then what?

Our artists, in partnership with one of our facilitators, will then work out a simple version of the map in top-line sketch format. This becomes the working document that will get put through several iterations before we receive finalised content.

We find that collaborating closely with a designated member of your organisation yields the best results, and we will go through a series of edits until both parties are happy with the content. This is key in making sure we capture everything we need to, but striking a balance to retain simplicity in the final piece.

How will it look?

Our artists will work out the best visual style, along with brand and marketing input, and put together some stylistic mood boards. On agreement of style, it is then hard at work in the studio for us, creating the final imagery that will be put together to make up your map. This stage of the process will entirely depend on agreed timelines and the detail of the map. Once your it’s been finished, we will send to you for review and make any edits that are within reasonable scope.

What more can I do with it?

As mentioned in the article ‘Process and journey maps part1” (click here for article) the possibilities are endless in what you can do with your finished map. In fact, we may not have even invented some things you could do with them! But we have found an animated version to support the static version can be a useful tool at

strengthening the impact and messaging. We can also break the map up into individual image files for you, and provide you with a suite of images like a clip art folder, so you can use them in presentations, communications, or sessions that focus on that one particular area of the process or journey. They can be handouts, wall decals, vinyl stickers, you name it. In fact, if you do have any ingenious uses for the maps that we haven’t thought of, do let us know!


If you are reading this article first and want to know a bit more about why they can be so effective, please head to “Process and journey maps part 1: Why are they effective?

Process and journey maps part 1: why are they effective?

Process and journey maps part 1: why are they effective?

I would like to tell you a short anecdote that will explain why a process map or a journey line is a great tool to communicate information and data to others…

Every year, my partner and I take a road trip around Italy. We’ve been doing this for several years now and have become quite adept at planning the route, the stops, the overnighters etc. As part of my meticulous planning, I have taken to putting together a small pack for my loved ones (namely my grandparents: “we are too old to travel and live through you”; my 80-year-old great Auntie: “I would love to do a road trip someday”; my mum: “I don’t know how you do all of those miles- do drive carefully!”; my in-laws: “oh we’ve been to that part of Italy- good cappuccino”; and my sister: “bring me something nice back”).

The pack is simply some screen shots of maps with the journey line on them, some pins where the key stops are, some doodles of the landmarks we would pass, the activities we would do, maybe some photographs and a running tally of the number of miles covered.

It struck me as we returned last year that this one-page overview of our journey had done several things for my nearest and dearest: it had communicated to them what was in reality quite a long and complicated journey with lots of different elements, and put it into a simple way that even my grandparents and my 80-year-old Great Auntie could understand. It also allows my family to track our progress and see where we are and what we’re up to, as well as providing me with an indication of how much to budget for petrol and tolls… (by the way, if you are thinking of road tripping in Europe, don’t forget to factor in the tolls!)

Whilst I understand that a road trip around Italy is hardly a complex business process, the packs I make are ultimately what we aim to achieve when creating process and journey maps. We aim to take what on the surface can look and feel like complex information and data, and translate it into a simplified version of itself, using visuals and iconography that everyone can understand, easily follow, and relate to.

What sort of things can they do for us?

Just like my road trip pack, the maps can be created to show main areas or points of focus, specific activity, and can also capture data.

They can be a tool to communicate a change to an existing process; set out so everyone can see where the changes are happening and who and what they directly impact. They can be used to lay out the plan for the year ahead; to show employees, stakeholders and exec boards the plan.

They are a one-pager of how a process should be running, highlighting safety issues and areas for opportunity. They are a complete end-to-end view of a complex business system, or an IT initiative. They can be used to start dialogue around a change; to enable people to have their say by interacting with the map itself and having their voice heard.

How can we use them?

You can have them printed as large or as small as you like, and displayed wherever or however you choose.

We can develop them into a more detailed, yet still visually engaging, story by creating a rich picture from them, or a graphic novel. If you want to go one step further in bringing your map to life, we can turn the map into an animated video file (click here for an example of an animate/ or article on why an animate?) which is effective way of sharing messages throughout an organisation.

The way in which we create the maps ensures they are not overflowing with data, making them an easy-to-follow, visual page that can be easily understood and shared.


I would also add a small piece of learning from my personal experience- the packs themselves give my family comfort that they can see where I will be, they know I have some exciting things planned and some meaningful and new activities to try. To have it all set out creates excitement, but also confidence, in what is planned…Just like how having a journey map set out clearly can go miles towards helping build employees’ confidence around a process or a change.

Whilst it may be more exciting to down tools and drive around Italy for a few weeks, that complex business process that you have been trying to communicate to all of your teams is not going anywhere- so perhaps a process map is the answer?


If you want to know more, read our article on how to create a process or journey map, or indeed, if you want to know more about road tripping around Italy, get in touch with Alana!