10 Tips on how to think like a designer…and tell stories


[image credit: Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures]


Another great post by Garr Reynolds - 10 Tips on how to think like a designer. I would love to have been a designer but don’t have the natural skills for it sadly. I do love design though and though people often associate design with physical objects like cars, or kitchen utensils it’s fair to say that everything in life is designed. Of course not a lot of thought goes in to some things but everything has a design. An area that I like to concentrate on is design of communication which of course ties in nicely to the ethos of Garr’s site and book. The design of slides can help you with #6 on his list.


(6) Become a master storyteller. Often it's not only the design — i.e., the solution to a problem — that is important, but the story of it. This is related to #5 above. What's the meaning of the solution? Practice illustrating the significance of solutions both verbally and visually. Start with the general, zoom in to the detail, pull out again to remind us of the theme or key concept, then zoom back in to illuminate more of the detail.


One thing I think we need to do a much better job of here at Microsoft is becoming better storytellers. There’s a natural interest I think we have from birth to listen to stories and it’s obvious that they’re so much easier than listening to fact after fact after fact. If you need the facts you can always refer to them but a story is always more powerful and when told from a personal perspective usually very engaging. Consider for example if I were to tell you all about the features of Live Messenger and how different the current version is to the last one and how many people use it worldwide. If I were to tell you how I personally use it and how it’s changed the way my family communicates that would probably be a more engaging story and certainly one that you’d remember and crucially re-tell, than all of those facts.

Nothing against the Live Messenger team as they’re actually pretty good and talking about the experience users have with their product more than the product itself – but other product teams could learn from this.

Anyway….just another of my passions here at Microsoft. To encourage better storytelling.

Comments (1)
  1. davidcoxon says:

    You make a few good points here. Everything is designed, and whether its designing presentation, print graphics, a product (or service) , the layout of buildings or software interfaces, the principle is basically the same. and what is better, is a skill that you can develop.  

    Classic design is all about story telling whether implicit or exclicit…and some of the best story tellers are directors just look at your blog the other day about the design of the johny walker bottle…one thing that great directors (and great writers) can do is get you to a place where you discover my yourself,  without actually saying the words…and your write this is something microsoft need to do better.

    Products like mesh would make great examples of where microsoft could make much more of this story telling the number of times, i’ve really need a bit of info when i’ve been away from my computer and mesh has saved the day.

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