Skip navigation

The Importance of Storytelling for Designers

By: Aquent

DATE: 05 May, 2020

Whether you’re a newly-minted designer or a seasoned professional, it’s never too late to sharpen your storytelling skills. The ability to tell a compelling story can benefit designers in all facets of their career, from landing that first gig to producing game-changing work. Read on to learn why storytelling is one of the most important tools you can have in your design arsenal—and how to put it into practice.

Create a Better User Experience

Intuitive UX is the cornerstone of successful design, but it’s not easy to accurately anticipate and blueprint your user’s journey. Through storytelling, you can illustrate the evolution of their experience, anticipate potential problems, and come up with realistic solutions that meet their needs and expectations.

Through storytelling, you’re better able to relate to your user and understand their experience in a holistic and meaningful way. Develop relevant personas and expand the traditional user journey to include context (like mindsets and motivations) or lead-up and follow-up experiences. Whether the vision is conveyed through a storyboard or a short video, it will help you develop an authentic user-oriented experience.

Unite Your Team

If you’re leading a team, storytelling can help you provide a common language and objective. This can give structure to the beginning stages of a project where even the simplest ideas seem fluid and vague. Having the ability to create a clear, consistent storyline from the start will prevent the final product from becoming an incoherent design—especially when there are lots of moving parts that must converge seamlessly. The story and its central points will serve as the map guiding your team to a common goal.

Enhance Your Hireability

It’s no secret that non-technical soft skills are in high demand across most industries, including design. Hiring managers actively seek designers with these strengths, especially those that can have a substantial impact on performance. Storytelling is one of many valued soft skills, but it has a unique importance in design.
The pitch and presentation of ideas is an essential part of being a designer, and not all can do it effectively. Regurgitating facts without weaving them into a story can alienate your audience and downplay the value of your work. In other words, data can’t tell its own tale. Hiring managers want to know that beyond producing a finished product, you can effectively explain its concept and value.

In addition to being a coveted soft skill, storytelling can make a world of difference when it comes to the job hunting trifecta: résumés, portfolios, and interviews. All three should chronicle a consistent and comprehensive story of your projects with a spotlight on their purpose and outcome. This level of detail creates a rich and memorable narrative that sets you apart from the pack. According to Vitamin T’s UX expert Jason Brownewell, a more general overview of your work will “lack the specificity that’s needed to connect with the hiring manager and create that a-ha moment.”

Put yourself in the boss’s shoes. Who would you rather hire: a designer who can eloquently explain their work and its impact, or one who can only show rather than tell? Presenting your projects in story form can make you more memorable after the fact, too. Research shows that only 5% of people remember isolated facts, but 63% can recall story elements.

Articulate Your Achievements

Most designers can point to a particular project or two that makes them proudest. Honing your ability to artfully describe these accomplishments can help you secure new and better opportunities. Whether you’re leveraging your work to obtain a promotion, earn more funding, or win over a potential client, knowing how to recount its story will pay off in dividends.

So, how can you ensure that your words will do your work justice? Sometimes the best way to create a riveting narrative is to begin at the end. Leading with your results and their impact will clearly illustrate the purpose and influence of your work.

How Do You Tell Your Story?

Sharing the context around your project can also help you paint a more persuasive picture. “Tell me the ‘why,’” says Brownewell. “Why were you there? It wasn’t to create wireframes; it was to solve a problem.” Did your project accrue extra revenue, drive brand value, or play a part in creating a consistent user experience? Reference the bigger picture to clearly demonstrate your impact and make your narrative as strong as it can be.

Want to become an effective storyteller, but not sure where to start? Gymnasium’s free video tutorial is a powerful primer that takes just five minutes to watch. Supercharge your skill set by learning how to tell your story. Your future self will thank you.

This blog originally appeared on Medium.