How to tell a story

Every designer should know how to tell a story 1.

The best way I know to get practice at communicating to a group of people is to tutor at university. You have to show up every week for 13 weeks and get a group of people to listen to you. It’s rare that you’ll have a relatively low stakes opportunity for so much practice.

Whether spoken or written, I believe that the only way to get good at telling stories is to tell them. You can’t learn by reading about it or thinking about it. You have to try, fail, think about why you failed, and then try something else. That is, you have to do something else very designerly — you have to iterate.

There’s plenty of advice out there on how to tell stories.

This long article from the NYT is a good repackaging of most of the common advice.

These four points from a post on Jenn Granneman’s blog are a good summary.

I find these short lists unhelpful, but the Granneman’s post has good examples.

  1. Grab their attention
  2. Set the mood
  3. Let them imagine
  4. Use casual, everyday words

Most of the time, in my role, I find myself telling stories in presentations. The best advice I know for doing great presentations comes from Giles Turnbull’s Doing Presentations.

  1. I’m following Danah Abdulla’s Designerly Ways of Knowing↩︎

August 21, 2022

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