Understanding science – the difference between a graphic design agency and a visual storytelling agency

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most complex and highly regulated industries in the world. So, to communicate effectively with stakeholders like patients and doctors, it’s important that the message comes across clearly and accurately. We want to set the record straight and show what a graphic design agency and a visual storytelling agency can do for the pharmaceutical industry and which partner understands the science behind your products best.

Graphic designers interpret key messages visually

A graphic design agency presents and interprets the key message of a company, product, or brand in a visual way. To achieve this goal, they use tools such as typography, compositional arrangement of text, ornaments, and images that help convey ideas and feelings. In order to do so effectively, a design team needs to clearly understand the message first, and that starts with a briefing.

What does working with a non-scientific graphic design agency look like for a pharma company? Let’s imagine you want to visualize the results of a clinical study report on a pivotal phase 2 trial. This includes the study design as well as diagrams with your crucial data. Working on that project with a graphic designer without a medical background probably means that you will need to give a very detailed briefing about the importance of the biostatistics, the data, which key messages should be conveyed, and how the study flow and treatment should be visualized. You may have to provide the concepts for the visuals, from schemas showing the study’s design down to specific icons which need to be simple without being gimmicky.

When reviewing, you may need to run QC, checking to ensure references have properly been carried over from your input materials, and that all data presented is accurate. That’s because a graphic design team without a scientific education may struggle with the details and grasping why they are important—you’re not just picky when you point out that a p-value symbolized on a chart is missing an asterisk. And they may also not be familiar with the regulatory and legal concerns of your company, which can affect creative choices, such as the color palette. You know, for example, that unbranded disease state awareness materials need to use a different color palette than branded, commercial materials.

A visual storytelling agency develops scientific stories, focusing both on didactics and graphics

In contrast, a specialized visual storytelling agency has strong in-house scientific expertise combined with didactic approaches to knowledge transfer and graphic excellence. This is possible thanks to interdisciplinary teams that work closely together to ensure quality and precision.

But what are the advantages of an in-house scientific department for clients mainly in the pharma and biotech?

  • Accurate referencing
  • Ability to work with client’s data
  • Conception and production done by a single team for streamlined workflow
  • Knowledge of the client’s key message in its complexity and nuance
  • Blend of creative and scientific expertise in crafting the message into a memorable story

Finally, the close collaboration between graphical and scientific departments results in a consistent and unique look and story for the client’s materials. So, let’s look again at the example of the pivotal phase 2 study that needs to be visualized. With in-house scientific expertise, storytelling agencies are already experienced in working with diagrams, statistics, and depicting a study’s design. You can hand them the study, tell them your key message for the study, and they can develop concepts for visuals that are accurate, appropriate, and clear. They will still ask for your input to make sure that the visuals are supporting your message the way you want. But they will be responsible for proofreading, which includes ensuring references are correctly cited and the data presented is consistent with your study.

In short, a design agency uses graphical design to support a key message without developing the content. A visual storytelling agency adds their scientific expertise to the graphical design approaches and can therefore also improve content to help transport the scientific story behind the data.

Do you have any questions?

If you work in pharma or biotech, and you’re looking for a partner to support your communication objectives, we would love to hear from you. Whether you have a specific project in mind or you’re just looking for guidance, click below to get in touch and learn how the power of visual storytelling can work for you.

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