Why storytelling is an essential UX communication tool
For the last 12 years, I’ve been a writer and illustrator of children’s books for Disney. I used to think that a career shift into experience design would force me to drop my 10 years of storytelling experience, but it’s a tool for delivering information that I continue to utilize almost every day.
One of my favorite aspects of studying storytelling is that it encompasses all of the liberal arts. The story of storytelling, is an anthropological journey through art, history, science, and technology.
Stories command attention. They can be deeply, persuasive, and of course, enjoyable. A life without stories would be a life with only roadsigns, calculators, numbers, spreadsheets, graphs, and short sentences that would bore even Alexa, Siri, and Google Home.
In my experience, stories are one of the best tools for conveying the value design can bring, and few things can help move a project forward as well as a good story can.
01. What Are Stories?
It’s common to think of stories as a form of entertainment, but in order to really understand what stories are, it’s important to view storytelling as a specific communication tool.
Storytelling is a method of delivering highly retainable information through immersion, allowing us to have an experience without experiencing something directly ourselves.
Much of this is due to the fact that our brains are hardwired for story. We naturally process the past and the present through narrative based memories.
Storytelling is a communication tool used throughout all cultures, starting with the advent of campfires and stone tools, where we first used stories to exchange information in order to warn, teach, and inspire within our earliest communities.
03. Storytelling Vs. Distraction
In the workplace, our ability to properly convey coherent information through narrative is struggling, often due to the distracting nature of our modern working environments.
For storytelling to work really well, we need time and focus, both on the part of the storyteller, and on the part of the listening audience. It takes time and focus to properly craft a story, and for the audience, it can take time to consume information through story, but focus is really key here. We aren’t designed to consume and retain information while multiple things are happening at once.
Time and focus are two conditions that our e-mail and meeting filled, open floor planned, laptop in our faces at all times, workplaces don’t support very well.