Over the past few weeks I have dived head first into navigating the world of UX, leaving (not far) behind a career and 10-year investment in architecture. Many of the key skills and concepts which I learned during my time as an architect have emerged as completely translatable to UX design.
I find myself using the word ‘storytelling’ more and more. I have found endless applications for the concept both coming from an architectural perspective and background, and moving towards a perhaps more user-centric, collaborative design discipline.
Storytelling is a word that I have found comes up frequently in design circles, but resonates with me on a few particular notes.
Great designs both communicate and enable great stories.
This plays roles in two major pieces — the process and the product.
Clients don’t always know exactly what they want, and if they do, it may not be what they need. It is our job as designers to fully understand both the client and the user, and communicate a design story which resonates with both parties.
I have had some excellent teachers and mentors during my time in the architectural design world, and all of these people have been excellent storytellers. The most skilled storytellers will communicate an idea to the client in a way which captures their imagination.
Understanding the client and the user is a critical piece of this process. The best stories are adapted to the audience, playing off their needs and desires.
I try to give people a different way of looking at their surroundings. That’s art to me. — Maya Lin
My favorite moments in my career have been those in which I have seen the switch click, and a client or user’s mind is opened to a perspective or method of thinking which they never considered. Enabling this ‘ah-hah’ moment of understanding a different way of looking at the problem is why we are hired as designers. When the narrative of the process and the concept is effectively told, consensus is achieved, and the client and user become invested in design concepts.
Great designs should communicate the stories of those behind them, and enable great stories for their users.
Think about a great story you heard or read lately. Perhaps an article, podcast, novel, or an anecdote from a friend. It probably sparked some interesting thoughts or even a deep conversation.
A great story captivates an audience. It enables us to wonder, reflect, or dream. It enables a conversation about its content that is valuable and thought provoking.
Great designs can have the same effect. Good designs are satisfactory, and get the job done. Great designs in my opinion are those which provoke thoughts and clearly communicate missions, concepts, and emotions.
Communicating a user’s mission, brand, or identity in a design product which articulates it effectively and emotionally is a high bar, and one for which I believe we should all strive as designers.
I certainly hope to develop my storytelling skills further as an integral piece of my design process.