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Visual storytelling like Steve Jobs

Liam Curley
Liam Curley
4 min read
"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come…” - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was the master storyteller. But, what you may not appreciate was how he used visuals to propel the story. Here's his framework:

Instant proof

Steve's launching the iPhone and about to declare that it'll change the world. This is an audacious claim, even from a man with his calibre.

So, what does he do?

He reminds us that Apple have done this before.

Instant proof

Hook to existing constructs

The iPhone isn't a new type of cell phone. It's a new type of product.

Steve doesn't try to describe a new product genre.

He hooks the iPhone to existing constructs. In an instant, the audience understands

Hook to existing constructs

Inject humour

Steve leads into the big iPhone reveal, but it's a gag. A clunky joke version of the iPhone.

The audience is in hysterics.

Steve's building suspense and engagement.

He won't reveal the iPhone until he has the audience in a frenzy. He's waiting for maximum impact.

Inject humour

Get explicit with the position

Now that the audience understands what the iPhone will do, Steve gets explicit about where it sits in the market.

Existing solutions are dumb and hard to use.

The iPhone is for you if you want something smart and easy to use.

Get explicit with the position

Identify the audience's reality

Now Steve presents the audience's current reality.

These are the best options available on the cell phone market.

Identify the audience's reality

Identify the pain

Then he identifies the pain.

He cuts to the burning problem with the audience's reality.

Identify the pain

Build trust

In a few minutes, Steve will show us futuristic iPhone features, like touch screen.

Other manufacturers have tried this before.

"We had the solution 20 years ago."

He's building trust.

Apple figured this decades ago. They just haven't applied it to cell phones (yet). It's not new to us.

Come back to the pain

One last time, he brings us back to our painful reality.

Why?

Steve doesn't tell the audience they have a cell phone problem.

They decide they have a cell phone problem (through his story).

Show, don't tell.

This visual marks his (and their) conclusion.

Come back to the pain

The reveal

Finally, Steve gives us the first look at the iPhone.

The reveal

More proof

Steve anticipates doubters around new technology.

So, once again, he reminds us of Apple's track record with the mouse and iPod.

He includes the new iPhone touch screen to earn credibility through association.

More proof

Address objections early

Before he presents the iPhone features, he addresses the predictable iPhone objection:

"What happens to all of my music on iTunes? Do I need to carry an iPhone and iPod?"

Address objections early

Present the features

Now, Steve presents the features.

Present the features

Chunk down on the pain

Then he goes into more depth on the existing problem. He chunks down on the pain.

Chunk down on the pain

Contrast with the solution

And contrasts this pain with the solution.

Contrast with the solution

Storytelling with data

He has shown how this technology will supersede existing cell phones.

Finally, he presents the data demonstrating the impact this will have on the world.

Storytelling with data

In hindsight, the iPhone success is obvious.

But at the time, this wasn't the case.

Yes, Apple had enjoyed breakthroughs before. But, they'd also experienced big misses.

Steve Jobs built launch hype with visual storytelling, which led to 216.76 million units sold in the first 10 years.