Running your own storytelling workshop.
‘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
Telling stories is one of the most powerful ways to get people thinking about any given subject. Stories are full of twists and turns which get your emotions and imagination going more than anything else. Our work as product designers requires us to constantly be able to empathise with the end user, and what better way to do so than through the use of storytelling?
In this post, I’m going to run you through my storytelling workshop which I ran for the design team very recently. The topic I set was Design Fiction, to make it a fun team exercise. But you can set the topic & scenarios to something more project-specific if you wish as I will explain at the end.
Design fiction is a design practice aiming at exploring and criticising possible futures by creating speculative, and often provocative, scenarios narrated through designed artefacts. (Think Black Mirror, but not always as dark.)
Step 1 — Choose your scenarios
Come up with some scenarios you want to explore. I came up with these prior to the session.
- Imagine the world in 50 years time, how will today’s 20 year olds be using technology when they are 70 years old?
- Imagine a time when all of the world’s hospitals are staffed by robots. How would that be?
- Imagine a world where everyone has their own iBot which knows you better than yourself. How might that be?
Split the group up into teams of 3–5 and have each team tackle one scenario.
Step 2 — Teams decide themes
Have fun with this section and try to think of some interesting themes which can later be applied to your story. These allow us to get closer to all of the emotions our users are likely to be going through.
Once the 5 mins is up, the teams should spend 2 mins choosing their top 5 to focus on.
Step 3 — Characters
Teams should spend a short amount of time coming up with some very simple characters for their story, they should have either 2 or 3 characters. We only need their names and age.
Step 3 — Plot tools
Use your themes and characters to think of some interesting scenarios. Stack the plot tools alongside all of your themes. These don’t have to match up too much just yet, just focus on variation and interesting plot tools.
Step 4 — Timeline
Spend 5 minutes attempting to put all of your plot tools in a timeline. At first your story might seem a bit crazy, but feel free to add in a couple of plot tools to pull it all together.
Step 5 — Storyboard
This is the last creation part. The teams should get sheets of A3 paper and storyboard their story using super simple triangle people. This will be presented to the other teams after the 15 mins us up.
Step 6 — Present ideas!
Gather around each teams wall and tell your story. It’s as simple as that! It’s amazing how quickly you can develop detailed stories from nothing.
Applying this to your own situation
If you want to do this for something more project specific, you could follow this framework:
- Scenarios — high level user tasks, e.g ‘Adding multiple items to you basket’ or ‘Updating your account details’
- Themes — emotions you have identified which your users experience
- Characters — based on personas you’ve created from your users
- Plot tools — Common trends which you’ve spotted in reviews/interviews or user testing sessions
Feel free to adapt this as much as you like, and let us know how it goes!