Let's say you knew everything about your end-user, from religion to her favorite singer. Would you take the time and effort to translate her beliefs into one design that mirrors her life?
Yes, or No?
If your answer to this question is an obvious yes, you're on a good way of becoming a storyteller.
Design is widely focused on defining different elements of form. Unfortunately, designers who has decided to only place their focus on a product's appearance, often find themselves preaching their ideas... to an apathetic audience. Mastering storytelling is the essence of being a designer. The main goal is not to create to a functional shape (e.g. there are many functional chairs designed each year, but how many of these bring the designer high revenue?) but to create an experience with the prospect's story as roots.
People do not like to be told what to buy, they don't like to become controlled or forced and they most definately do not appreciate changing their own behaviors and mechanism to fit your product. You, on the other hand, must fit their natural behavior, it's the designer's responsability to fully graps what story the end-user has. Then. You reaffirm that story back to her with a design.
We all have our own story built out of our memories, some we treassure while others we wish to forget. Nevertheless, these memories makes us who we are and how we perceive ourselves. These memories give us our principles in life. They are our values and give us wants and needs. The building-blocks of design should be intrinsic values. Not yours, but your consumer's values (consequently, it's important to choose a consumer who you can work hard for). You will need to turn deep into your prospect's personality and sense of identity to get a firm grip of what her true values are.
Now the question asked on top of the page might be easy to answer, nevertheless you probably agree that actually taking the action of mirroring an individual's life into one design might be slightly more difficult, and definately much more intimidating. The first step you need to take is to change your perspective and be willing to slightly let go of your own identity.
Now, nobody wants to let go of their own identity, obviously, but this is what I mean...
When surrounded by other designers, manufacturers, etcetera, you can not truly escape becoming imprinted with how you see the world, and with the designer goggles on, that world will turn into your reality. However, how your potential client experiences the world and what reality is to her, just might be a completely different story.
The modern saying, in which you are most likely familiar with, "form follows function" can be interpreted in many different ways. If we translate it to storytelling, it means that you need to follow the experience your prospect is in search for. What is her story and dream today and how should a design express that? Different segments in time evidently bring different dreams and ideals. In a time where money is difficult to get a hold of and your prospect is losing her job, you must inspect how your product will tell her that it should be a part of her life, that it deserves her attention and her economic expenses.
Design should not be forced and pushed upon the consumer, it should be desired on a level she can not really come to sense with. In her perception, it just fits her identity. It fits her story, thus becames a natural part of her life.
There is this misinterpretation that storytelling is a tool for writers. And while this is true, the borders of this effective skill which is storytelling, does not only stop within writing, but it extends its arms much further into different fields such as photography, painting and design. With stories we are able to relate with the world. When you have accomplished a design that portrays the complete experience of a product from the essense to its shell, you are a storyteller.
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