Storytelling is used to relate a series of events that happened to a specific character. In design thinking, storytelling helps to articulate your design vision by communicating the value of your team’s work to an audience (of stakeholders).
Given that design thinking is all about the processing of information, from collecting data to making sense of it, the value of which must be communicated to your audience, preferably in the deeply human way that is storytelling. We all love stories – and for a reason. They transform information to be engaging for others who can then participate in your vision. Stories go beyond the intellect’s rational capture of the message to address the affective side, creating emotional connections. Storytelling is a powerful means of communicating the value of your prototype.
In design thinking, storytelling’s role throughout the process is not limited to the implementation phase where you share your ideas with stakeholders and seek to implement the ideas in their organizational settings. It also plays a role in the Empathy phase where you aim to understand the emotional experiences of your users. Through stories, users can transfer their subjective knowledge to you. Remember that the activity ‘A Day in the Life’, involves users (or representatives) who tell the design team about their personal experiences in an ordinary working day.
When sharing all the information gathered during field research amongst the design team members, the convergence of this data will develop a unique design vision, point-of-view or frame – the pivot of the design process. This convergence is not only about scientific analysis to find the right conclusions from all the data or mining it for patterns. Interpreting the data is essential to understand the meaning in the specific context of the design challenge. Storytelling, where you exchange information with your teammates to get a clear idea of what they mean, is an important aspect of this sense-making process.
Coherence is the organizational principle of this ‘humanistic’ way of making sense of the data. To begin with, your story should be coherent, with a plot and a clear narrative structure. In storytelling, your claim relates to meaning, ‘how it really is’ for humans. Note that the truth-value of your story will be determined by the quality of this coherence, which differs from the exact sciences where the organizational principle is the correspondence of your assertions to facts that relate ‘how it really is’ in the physical world.
The essence of your story must be clear. What specific idea do you want to convey? You will want to select and prioritize the essential aspects you intend to share.
Create a clear structure so that your story has a sequence with a beginning, a middle and an end as well as a plot and/or a dramatic turn, which could be the problem itself and how it can be overcome. When you focus on this conflict or core paradox, you will include information about what made the problem so difficult to solve and how your frame/approach is essential to overcome these difficulties.
By including a character in your story, you can express human truths to generate empathy and interest from your audience. Tell your story around the Persona your team created using a fictional or real-life scenario. Be sure to explain the transformation of your persona
1. Identify an initial problem and your ideal, which you can think of as your guiding star.
2a. Identify pivotal insights from your field research and your discovery of a crucial theme
2b. How do your design vision and prototype enable your team to overcome the initial problem?
3. What does your vision imply for the organisational context?
Incorporate some detail, like interesting quotes or a particularly significant situation
Use what you have learned during the design process
When you include a bit of yourself and your personal experiences, your story is more convincing
Video is a powerful medium for communicating ideas, insights and stories
Your visual aids should be selected and used carefully. Converse with your audience instead of reading your slides. Avoid the temptation by using just a few words on each slide
Prepare for interaction and questions
Practice makes you better. Ask someone to let you rehearse on them and see if they grasp the message of the value of your team’s work