As graduation looms and the end of my New Design Firms class is in sight, I wanted to reflect on what I felt was my most valuable lesson learned. The future of design firms is ever changing and over the weeks we have read about and discussed wide ranging topics from glocalization to Steam Punk to the death of graphic design. For me, one lesson topic resonated with me more than the rest and that was the art of storytelling in design.
‘The storytelling supports the exploration of the service idea. Through the use of simple words, the teller will illustrate the solution as it is a story’
- Solomon Christian, Storytelling
As a web designer, a large part of my daily life is creating wire frame journeys and user interfaces for the customer to react with. I understand all of my process because I have been immersed in it for days, weeks and even months to the point where I fully understand my users and their reactions. Yet, when I present my designs to the client it is only through the use of storytelling, explaining how the user feels and acts at certain points, that the design can be fully understood. I effectively create a story to bring my design to life.
Storytelling is a skill I already use but didn’t realize. It is through this class that I have been able to strengthen my storytelling ability (through class presentations, short story writing or writing blog posts). I use this skill throughout my job whether it is pitching my designs or creating a narrative (in the form of design) to guide the users through the website. I am always selling my design, my idea… my story.
‘The idea is to create a series of narrative use-cases for your product that illustrate every step in the user’s journey through it’
- Braden Kowitz, UX designer and storyteller
I have found in website design that storytelling helps not only the designers but the users, developers and clients. It helps them understand better what works, what we are trying to achieve (which may be very different from what we first thought) and often results in problems being identified earlier.
Last year I was lucky enough to attend a talk by the sensational Robert Wong, co-founder and Chief creative officer of Google Creative Lab. His inspirational talk started with a short video about the art of storytelling something that I have come to realize is often lost amongst the technology and hype of modern products or services.
The video talks about how Google glass was created because of what they could create, not because there was a need for it. As a result the developers didn’t really know what the purpose of the product was therefore storytelling was used as a tool to create the ‘what could be’ scenario. It created something that was much more exciting and tangible for the end user and had it been used earlier on in the process the product itself may have been more of a commercial success.
‘What designers need to learn, and this is the most important thing, is the language of the business world. Only by learning that language can you effectively voice the argument for design’
– Peter Gorb
For me, this class has shown to me what an asset storytelling is. It is a skill I will continue to develop and hone. When starting this Master’s degree I hoped to gain the ability to understand the ‘language of business’ better so I can communicate more easily with clients and colleagues not from a design background. I believe that storytelling is the most effective way to do this and in using it, I am able to bring meaning to my work and engage clients who have little understanding of the importance of design.