Scribology: 12 Principles You Didn’t Know You Knew

At TruScribe, we’re almost always engaged in a discussion of our design principles. Whether it’s with each other, reminding ourselves of the best ways to communicate a message, or helping a client zero in on the best design choices for their video, Scribology is our favorite subject and the reason we’re able to do what we do.

The not-so-secret secret, though, is that Scribology isn’t an esoteric, obscure collection of ideas, but a group of truths about our minds and how they process information. That’s why today, our Scribology discussion isn’t centered on any one great example. Instead, it’s focused on reminding ourselves how much we already understand the ideas at hand.

Let’s start with Story. Is there anything clearer than a story—or perhaps, is there anything more normal than a story? It’s actually harder to think of conversations that don’t involve stories (or, for that matter, presentations, lessons, and other forms of communication) than those that do.

Here’s an easy way to prove this idea: try telling someone how your day went without a story. Explain an event in history. It’s possible, but it’s not natural, is it? It’s more like work. And it’s not going to be received very easily. That’s why the Principle of Story is key: it’s how we communicate best.

The Principle of Message can also be found everywhere you look. How many times have you realized an idea was getting bogged down in specifics and restarted your own sentence with a phrase like “Okay, here’s the point?” We all recognize that the central idea—the message—comes before everything else. You can’t build a home without knowing that people need to live in it. You can’t craft a treaty without being sure that both sides understand the reason it exists is for peace. And you can’t design a business communication without ensuring that your message is clear and understood.

The Principle of Visuals is incredibly dominant. Whole industries are built around it—fashion comes immediately to mind, but there are examples that are less instantly obvious that are just as common. Think of a Corvette. I’ll bet that wasn’t hard to visualize, and that your visual didn’t involve the word “Corvette” stenciled on the vehicle. The look of that car is burned into any automotive enthusiast’s mind, because it is unique, long-running, and well-advertised. It’s the right image for the car, so much so that if you were to see “Corvette” on a differently designed vehicle, you’d reject the idea. It’s the Principle of Visuals, mastered.

Then, there is the Principle of Voice. We know that successful communication of a message requires the right voice, and we don’t even have to look past our own pets to see this. Dogs and cats recognize their owners’ voices, and the pitch of those voices, and take our meaning through those cues. It’s a Scribology principle proven even beyond the human experience: speak in a bright, positive tone to your pet (especially when using their name) and they’ll understand your approval or excitement. Use the opposite tone, and they’ll get the opposite message—the Principle of Voice, across species.

Synchronization is a Principle that we notice in media immediately if violated, and that’s because the entire natural world sets a standard for us. We know that mouth movements happen in sync with the person’s voice, and we’re acquainted with the dynamics of echoes, the visual and auditory relationship between lightning and thunder, and so on. That’s how vital synchronization is in video: to break it is to contradict our nonstop, lived experience of the relationship between sound and visuals.

The Principle of Geometry, which reminds us that we best remember things as simple geometric shapes (and then extrapolate the details from there), is borne out even in our drawings as children. Mountains are triangles, planets are circles, and so on. Before we even know why, our brain makes these associations, and that’s why we prioritize making them for our viewers through this Principle.

Human Forms are so engrained in the brain that we see them on Mars. We are hard-wired to see faces, bodies, and other parts of the person—to the point that even fictional creatures are said to have a “head”, “face”, or other features which don’t really apply to their structures. The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term that specifically applies to forms that are unnerving due to their high degree of similarity but perceived “wrongness” when compared to the human form (like the popularized ‘Gray’ alien’s shape). Human Forms will always hold our interest, and principled use of this fact can be powerful.

Motion is a Principle that, like Voice, transcends species. When something moves through your line of sight, your eye tracks it; there’s simply no two ways about it. The Principle of Surprise is equally compelling—when have you been startled or surprised, and maintained your concentration on something else? I’m willing to bet the answer is “never,” because we’re not the type of creatures to ignore such things. We want to know what’s moving, and we get very engaged by the unexpected. These are survival-based truths, and ones that The Scribology Company leverages in its designs.

Framing is a Principle that also replicates our real-world experience. The broader our view of something, the more expansive it is, but our relationship becomes less personal; view any monument or natural wonder from a distance, and you’ll experience that awe-inspiring feeling of scale, and your own smallness. Up close, you feel an intimate, closer relationship. Think of how much a hug can make you relate to the other person, and you can understand why close framing in a Scribology video is used to create an intimate relationship with the hand that enables visualization of your message.

To show the commonplace nature of the Accent Color, we need only think of the Golden Arches, or the Swoosh, or any other major logo linked completely to a single color. That color means McDonald’s, or Nike, as soon as it’s placed even vaguely in context of the brand. This is how we use the Principle in design: to inextricably indicate the most relevant parts of the frame, and draw the eye there. Walking down the street, if your vision is the ‘frame’, brands want to make sure their logo is the most important part—so they use an accent color.

Finally, Image Density is the reason why we feel stage fright. When we’re standing alone in front of a crowd, all eyes are on us, because we’re the only ‘image’ there. The crowd feels no such pressure, since two hundred people take up so much space that they eye has no reason to focus on any one person. As the presenter, you have everyone’s full attention—for better or for worse, as the case may be. So we, at The Scribology Company, carefully manage image density to manage your viewer’s focus.

Scribology comes from brain science and neuroscientific research into the world we all inhabit, and the way our minds work. You already live its principles, even if unconsciously, every day—so make sure you’re using them well in your messaging.