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  • How to Design a Good Story?

    01 November 2016
    S.Point, Member Firm (China)

    Each Industry Is Seeking Those Good at Storytelling

    Storytelling has become a tool for brand name innovation. The trend is even more conspicuous in consumer goods. In a time when consumers demand more and better, it is not sufficient to provide functioning goods (practical, offering the experience, and meeting certain specifications); now we have to pursue differentiated brand name experience. In other words, functional brand names have to evolve and become perceptive ones. Such trends are happening in all areas from restaurants to daily use items.

    The 10 trillion consumers concept of several years ago has gone. Now the business maneuver is about narrow focus, circles, and segments. To tell a good story about a brand name is to offer differentiated experience to the consumers. The story told by Airbnb is to offer you living exploration all over the world. Through website UI, commercials and marketing, Airbnb is conveying the message of home everywhere. It is no surprise that Airbnb founders are from designer backgrounds – thus they think this way.

    What’s the relationship between design and storytelling?

    Design has everything to do with storytelling. Stanford Design School had a research project about how to use design thinking to tell a good story. Design thinking, to put it in short, is the use of designer acumen and design methodology to satisfy actual needs while meeting technical and business feasibility. Silicon Valley and design research institutions are pursuing design thinking.

    Design a good story using design thinking is an abstract concept. Design boundaries are becoming vague. Storytelling is a key design thinking capacity. When implementing a restaurant project, S.LAB used storytelling to explain the overall design concept. The S.LAB designer explained how the restaurant may communicate messaging by putting characters in a context. Examples included pre-order by the customer before arriving at the restaurant to reduce the choosing difficulty as well as using the taxi among many potential communications channels to deliver restaurant promotional information.

    How to tell a story as a designer? The following might be of help.

    Get to the point

    Before telling a story, try to be clear about what message you want to deliver. It is like the literature teacher requesting us to sum up the key idea of a paragraph. A good story requires a good point, the most effective one to communicate. You need to make sure the point is effective, by summing up the whole idea in one sentence. In line with design thinking, the single sentence reveals the true essence of customer analysis. It is the message you present to the consumers.


    You may be as creative as possible with design work. The story you tell must be close to the consumer. If you want the consumers to pay, you have to present truth that moves and touches the person. As mentioned before with the DFM case, truth is effective when it comes to a moving story told.


    The designer wishes to have a distinct style. Storytelling is the same. You have to have a distinct story told. The Airbnb commercial provides a case study showing how best to tell a story.

    The point is all about the core value of Airbnb – experiencing home wherever you go. The consumer is encouraged to place the order with Airbnb to experience home. The content of the story, including all the scenes in the commercial, is real – you may well experience them in life and during travels. Distinctness comes from the touch of fine arts and poetry, a common feature of the brand names that are good at storytelling. Such distinctness is found in the target young consumers too.

    Not done yet…

    Theatrical action

    You need to consider three questions. First, what’s the issue of the story? Take what action to resolve the issue? What’s the message to convey through the issue? From the perspective of design thinking, the three questions are: What need is satisfied? How to design to satisfy the need? How to convey the distinct brand name message while satisfying the need through design?

    Airbnb has presented the issue: How to experience home when traveling elsewhere? The people in the commercial, thanks to Aribnb service, experience home everywhere they travel. This is the message the company wants to convey.

    Details, details, details

    When conveying emotions through behaviors, you need to consider behavioral details. To put it into design context, you need to think about UX design details to make it user-friendly. When you design a building, you need to think about details that make life easy.

    You see details in the commercial – the dog, the sun light in the early morning, the person washing the face. The details suggest the home feeling.

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