I decided to start telling a story about how to tell a story. (As I am bad.)

Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash

Well, hello hello, thank you for spotting this piece I wrote and published for the very first time here.

I want to start using this platform actively by working on a skills development project. I called it “construct the creativity in work+life,” inspired by several failed attempts of perfect pitch.

Storytelling, what a designer or everyone in the business needs the most among all the qualities in their profession. Critical and cliche enough to emphasize that, but sometimes “needs” are still goals for a newbie in the field. For designers, the standard is higher; it is supposed not to be even a pain point because storytelling is a form of design. Yet, when we take a closer look, it is a well-planned trailer of the design we just made. As a jr. designer, I feel the pain of lacking a gift or experience to build this skill. So how on earth could we condense our creative approaches into another creative strategy?

First, let’s see where we are and be honest about who we are here.

Confessions on my weakness of storytelling:

  • I see myself as rather an intuitive person by default and not inductive in my conclusion.
  • I was born in a culture that we speak in a manner that is often indirect.
  • I am talkative, and the worst can sometimes get either too deep or too broad in certain tasks.
  • The top 3 might be personal issues and seem to be biased; how about this, which we might have in common: I make cookies and make sure everyone gets a cookie, but I forgot how to deliver a nice package for the cookies. It’s the final step of the production, and so far, I suck at it.

Imagine all that effort of making delicious cookies becomes in vain. With all good intentions, designs of recipes, selectings of ingrdients, strategy of flavors, science of heat and time, we are still neglecting the way (the box) to put those goodies, people won’t buy and even trust how good they can be.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

Wow, this sounds terrible and does no favor for designers to start their career in a team. I shared these struggles with design mentors, including people I came across from the school, the alumni, the professor (special thanks for Daniel), outside of school, from Medium, Linkedin, ADP list, and some other community I signed up for to find help.

After some helps and justifications, I received my job offers and excited to step into my new role as a jr UXUI designer in a startup. Knowing that I need to include the skills of packaging in my production, I collected some notes from mentors and combined how I noticed from the conversations with the CEOs/HRs/PMs/Sr Designers I met, then summarized how far we could do better to convince the value of the design process in UXD.

💬 Here are 10 mindsets of being storytelling savvy :

  1. When on the stage, we must still acknowledge our identity of doing design for users and our responsibility of improving the design.
    True that we are on the stage, and we might not be confident enough of our speech, but we know we are storytellers at this moment for our designs. So even when we aim high to do everything nicely from a lower place, remember what we’re good about it as we might fail to tell stories well. (Know what’s good about your cookies and your intention of doing good cookies.)
  2. The design needs us always updating ourselves.
    Thus, to have good stories, do research + documenting, be a good nerd, but be clear about how/what/when/how much to nerd about. It’s constructive to be a nerd sometimes but not very productive to be overly nerdy. (Once you are done your nerdy time, collect and document feedbacks, this will do justice for your process.)
  3. I figure it is not the problem of length. It’s how you’re going to converge.
    As I am talkative, I struggle with how to speak succinctly.“Just keep it short,” people said. Then when the message becomes dull and lifeless, you notice the problem is not to list things but to architect information and lay it out user-friendly again. Storytelling is not just whether it must be short or long but is based on occasions, scopes, users, the meaning of communication, and how we exert our creativity. It is a design of a design, visual strategy of a visual strategy. Except for the communicative goal here is different. Mainly we are stressing the key essential picture here of our design.
  4. All the stories lead to a conclusion place, but you are the host who invites guests to join in witnessing this conclusion.
    Do prepare for that there will be a debate, and don’t judge your guests, better to land a middle ground. In the end, a designer is not the product owner, and even here to play God, each individual is nicely designed in their own way to partake in this constant iteration.
  5. Stories are just as good contents surface on the cool widget.
    My core missions to craft stories are that they should be personalized, glanceable, relevant, delightful, and useful. Here is a principle I used from what I learned about how the iOS design team makes widgets. Widgets are designed to be key data content and constructed visually. BUT they are NOT apps themself. The purpose of widgets is for users to know the context of information and guide users to deep-link to the app accordingly. (See also iOS design guidelines on how they design widgets. I mean it. It’s more than just insightful.)
  6. The art of shedding light = the freedom for the audience to highlight.
    Even we thought about the details or elements in a hierarchy. Still leave space and room with the audience for them. It will be interactive to find what’s helpful here, ask open questions directly or indirectly. If they are intrigued, they will want to dive into the scenes behind the story, but don’t leave mystery or overstate.
  7. Be happy about even 0 or 1 audience, and be faithful from the small.
    Practice makes not miraculously perfect, but practice always supports.
  8. Be consistent in context, but that doesn’t mean a linear way to showcase your story. In other words, stick to the story theme but remember to play with some hierarchy.
  9. Use gadgets in this workflow of storytelling:
    a. Tools of documentation (Notion or Confluence)
    b. Nice but simple visual to assist the verbal words, choose well.
    c. A little bit of courtesy to offer water/nice manner / good volume of voice and perfect smiles.
  10. Be authentic about who you are even in the worst situation, and don’t bail the chance of standing on the stage. It’s okay the presentation goes south, but make sure you show up what to communicate in person and discuss directly with the original passion.

Conclusion

Though the goal to list these mindsets of how to improve storytelling is not to train anyone to be good at this but is to promote the more we start telling things out, and we get to improve from it. The good thing is that we will always have stories to tell along the way, but keep sharing when we still a part of them.

I hope this all makes sense to you. If it doesn’t, I have made a disclaimer of how bad I am at the beginning. I hope to encourage not only myself and new designers to take a step out to write too. We might not be very experienced, confident, empowered at the jr position, but storytelling in the end, like design, is never a competition. It’s just a service to make things better. I believe we should not shut up and be timid even we are learning.

So write, and document, work, and keep getting challenged, see how it works even is something in the working progress.

Finally, to whoever had sat there patiently to help me craft my crappy storytelling, thank you. I feel I might owe you a pack of real good cookies.

The “construct the creativity in work + life” project is to also archive the learning process and in honor of people who mentored me, still deciding if this name works; let me know a better way to name in the comment or how do you think after reading about all this.

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