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  • Writer's pictureGeo George

Why storytelling is essential in design.

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

If design is all about problem solving and engaging with the audience, wouldn’t you want to do it in the most effective way? Good storytelling helps you effectively hook the imagination of users and invites reciprocal actions and behaviours.

Every good story has a narrative arc. According to playwright Gustav Freytag, the narrative arc of a story can be divided into five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion. Good design has a similar narrative arc. There is a journey set out for the user of the product or service and it unfolds over time. It begins with a plot - this may be the client’s brief that explains what functions the product will fulfil, or the designer asking, “What is the desired action?”

Every brand tells a story. The colours it uses, the music it plays, the furniture it displays, all are vital elements of the storyline.

Stories can help fire up our imagination and make us feel an emotional charge. Keeping this in mind, good design proactively accounts for how users will experience the product and how they will remember it later. Therefore, designers need to be empathetic to create a memorable product or service. Emotion, pleasure, and functionality are essential for creating good user experiences.

Donald Norman divided user experience into three phases: visceral, behavioural, and reflective. The visceral component is what we process right away with our minds and bodies - colours, form, texture, etc. Behavioural experience consists of actions the user takes - push a button, read a caption, etc. Reflection is what the user recalls later - the association we form with the product over time.

Products can move users from one emotional state to another. Considered and intentional use of colours, light, textures et al, help designers modulate the mood of a product or service.

Stories help us present information in interesting and memorable ways. Myth and legends, for example, are great devices of storytelling. Much like an absorbing tale, a well-designed product connects better with the audience and is remembered. Stories are all around us, especially if you stay in a place like Dubai. Dubai is a unique cultural melting-pot and offers the creative professional a window to thought-provoking exhibitions, shows and the grand parade of life lived by a variety of cultures that inhabit the nation. Art Dubai for example is a three-day event which displays artworks from across the region and the globe. Places around Dubai are converted into galleries, dance studios, artisanal cafes and more. This has helped the city nurture a culture of creativity and innovative thinking. Just the perfect recipe if you are a designer in Dubai wanting to learn how to tell better stories though your work.

(With inputs from Design is Storytelling by Ellen Lupton)

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