The Importance of Storytelling in Product Design

Published on Jul 09, 2020
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Storytelling in product design is the buzzword of the decade. We live in an age of information overkill. The web has produced countless articles on how to build a narrative with visuals and copy. Consumers today are adept at reading brand messages. They look past what the product does to find the truly authentic and reject the illusory. 

Need for Storytelling

Tech-savvy consumers have been intensely trained to ask questions while navigating through the interface. They ask, What is genuine? What is the backstory? Why should they believe in you? What is in it that makes a better version of themselves? 

To them, your brand persona becomes characters, and flow becomes narrative structures. They play an active part in your brand value creation; both by recognizing and authorizing. It is they who drive the economy, - not the organization.

The best way to go about this matter is to create a story centred design. As a product designer, our motive should never be just prototyping. If there is a story then there is trial-and-error! After research and designing personas and UX; through iterative improvements and tweaks; the product becomes a part of the consumer’s narrative and plays a positive role.

Art of Storytelling

We all have a story of our own. It is through those stories that we share experiences and forge meaningful relationships with others. Through storytelling in product design, your story becomes your consumer’s story or ‘Our Story’. 

Creating an engaging storyline is not very easy. Visuals, copy and interaction can sync to provide a specific experience. However, with the use of the 5Ws and an H as a guide for brainstorming, the answers can help shape the narrative that incorporates your mission statement and specific brand values.

Back in 1988, Nike discerned the long-lasting importance of storytelling when it released its famous Michael Jordan retirement commercial and added the iconic tagline “Just do it”; which till date has remained inevitably incorporated in Nike’s brand story, caring its core value, praising diversity and inspiring change.

Storytelling Humanizes UI

If you have a product then you have competition. Your product can do the same thing as your competitors, but what can make the real difference is your brand’s version of the narrative. Stories are vital as they trade in emotional currency.

Storytelling is way different than simply reciting the facts. It is scientifically proven that storytelling engages the audience’s brain and activates parts that allow the listener to connect with whatever he is listening or visualizing, making him emotionally charged by the information. The brain then releases an enzyme named dopamine, making the item easy to remember. For this reason, the narrative is thought to be a mental preparation for people to grasp new information. All together it creates an empathy ground for the consumer to form an emotional connection. 

Good stories make the consumer anticipate and never give up the ending before time. While storytelling has no hard and fast rule and brands can have their own way with it, however, apart from just telling, listening is as important. Besides answering all the inquiries of the consumer, leaving some room for mystery is like a closed-door on a relationship that keeps them coming back for more. This creates a secondary value added to the product that comes from pure fascination.

Apple has always portrayed itself as a brand of independent thinkers. From 1984’s the Super Bowl Macintosh commercial, to “The power to be your best” slogan and all the way to the “Think Different”, Apple has invoked its consumers to ‘Think!’.

Storytelling Enables Better UX

Key to a good storytelling experience in product design is to provide them with a unique and smooth experience. Special care should be taken while designing the touchpoints between the user and the brand. Stepping into the shoes of the consumer will provide better insights in creating a meaningful storyline, in line with the brand values and goals.

Mr Alex Jimenez, Chief Strategy Officer at Extractable from California, shares his views on the importance of understanding the user requirements for creating a better user experience.

Typography is another part of your brand's persona that helps in telling your story too. Legible fonts are the most attractive to your users, as they need not zoom in to figure out what is written on the screen. No one will care to sign onto a vision if they don’t understand why it matters even if it looks good.

A reduced clutter, an organised narrative and a clear goal provide the best user experience. It invokes a rollercoaster of emotions ultimately generating sales.

The Coca-Cola scarlet red bursts with joy and passion wherever it pops up, stimulating the appetite, instigating impulsive purchase.

The trust factor is an essential part of the storytelling. It does not create a one time customer but aims at loyalty. Storytelling may sound like a cunning opportunity to fabricate the potholes solely for the benefit of sales. It might work out for the time being but in the long run, it shall turn out to be havoc. The easiest and simplest way to go about it is, by ‘Making promises with your product/service’ and ‘Deliver the promise’.

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