Storytelling is all about a play of human emotions. And design is about solving problems for humans. There is surely a connect. Perhaps a deep one.
This blog is a compilation of multiple exchange of ideas that happened at Laughing Popcorn’s recent event called “The Curious Case of Design”. The event was meant to inspire conversations and get people thinking about design to create an impact. The event had an interactive talk by Radhika Nathany, the CEO and Brand Strategist at Laughing Popcorn. Read on for some key insights.
The first part was about really understanding stories. What is their structure like, what makes humans love them so much! We started with understanding that stories are essentially build on a basic structure which looks like this:
Character — — — Setting — — — Conflict
If we look at any story, every if we pull a book back from our childhood, we can see that the base of every story starts with some key characters. Then the context for all of them is well defined. The whole environment of where they are operating is well put up so as to draw readers or viewers completely in the zone. Once the characters are placed and a context is well set, there is a situation of conflict that is created. Boom! The human emotion has been triggered! We start imagining ourselves in the situation of the character or think of a loved one in that situation and we want to hear more, we want to know the story. The conflict is created to touch us, it bothers us and we are intrigued to see it get resolved or perhaps find an end….
That’s how they go.
To take an example here, we spoke of the Cinderella story! Yes, we all have surely read that and it will be a good example to help everyone understand the basics. The character has been well defined. To ensure that the readers are emotionally well invested in the story, one would find smaller details like description of how she lives, the back story of the family, what she eats, how she sleeps and more. The visuals in the book, no matter which one you pick up will further fuel our imagination. With the context set, situations are created. She wants to go to the party. Then the prince wants to find her. It takes the reader along. We all want her to live happily ever after because somewhere the story evokes an emotion in us that reminds us of our struggle against something and we want to see a victory! Yes, that’s the underlying key. If we unwrap and go deep into the layers, we can feel that ultimately the story is talking about Cinderella’s struggle in life. That’s how stories are build. At the very base, their core will be human emotions, just the ‘props’ used to put them up will be different, as per the desired results.
Now step in ‘Design Thinking!’ Can you already join the dots?
The basics of design thinking can really be inspired by the structure of a story. We define the users, understand more and more about them, go deep into framing a context and then address the problem in hand to find solutions. It could be simplified as:
Remember how we were just talking about unwrapping the layers of a story. It’s almost like reversing the process. Understand the root of the problem and then keep building to choose your ‘props’ and find unique ways to define the solutions. Designs that are not build on a strong base, often fail to create the required impact.
The other interesting thing to note here is the element of exaggeration in stories. There is drama. Situations are amplified by the use of music, visuals, timing and more. This learning can almost be taken by designers as — learn the rules and then bend them. So once you have the core of the problem clear, once you know your audience really really well, by all means, do whatever you feel is required to evoke the right emotions in the audience and create a lasting impact! After all that’s what good designers do! After the overall base conversation, lot of examples were also discussed to further understand the application of storytelling-inspired-design-thinking!
Largely, it was observed that design thinking is spoken about the most in the context of UI/UX design. All the empathy maps, user journeys are mostly considered to be closer to what UI/UX designers do. However, this is almost a mandate for any design, not just the world of web. Only, its shape and form could vary as per the requirements or the designer’s personal approach.
The other interesting application of storytelling in design can happen in the context of visuals. Of course. But even in visuals, we could go in different directions. Like think of a logo, if we are able to stitch a story to a logo, it will always have a more powerful impact. The association will change. Like Amazon’s logo cleverly connects the A to Z, signifying they connect and get you everything! Smart thinking! There are endless examples of how logos have successfully used stories.
The other interesting elements we found were smaller applications like business cards. Have a look at the business cards compiled in this blog. https://www.boredpanda.com/creative-business- card-designs/. They will surely go a long way in your memory rather than just going into your wallet, never to be recalled again!
A good designer will try to stitch a story even in a single visual. The way the elements are placed, the choice of colours, the flow of elements will all be strategically planned to have the maximum impact when the user looks at it!
Think of how a designer could create a lasting experience for any customer who enters a store. It’s not a coincidence how things are placed in the shelves, how aisles are planned, how products with offers are well kept in your sight, yet balanced with the ‘fresh stock’, which will appeal you and melt your heart! Goes back to the same thing, use stories to better understand humans and build better experiences!
Presentations need not always be boring! Look at it like a story. Define a context, create a hook and ‘narrate’ your information to your audience, instead of just telling them. Presentations could have a stronger impact by the way they are told, even more than ‘what’ is told. Another element of storytelling that could be used in presentations is exaggeration. Yes, have a good build up. Exaggerate your narration (and not the facts) to add a touch of drama that will enhance the interest element and attention of your audience. This will prepare them to listen to you more carefully and leave a greater impact! For a study of this, listen to presentations of the likes of Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and more! We captured this aspect in detail in our blog, covering a list of people to get inspiration for good presentation.
Other ways how we could look at the human connect and the power of stories that companies follow in smaller instances is like, we have Facebook and Instagram ‘stories’. We have a Siri and Alexa to help us and not just a voice assistance. The element of character and the idea of having a companion is stronger than having a piece of technology to assist us!
So to end the ‘story’, ‘The Curious Case of Design’ was an inspiring event. Inspiring to think deeper, tell better stories and engage audiences to create greater impact.
Always happy to hear your story, Laughing Popcorn