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Design Research



Storytelling is a tool that has different application techniques. It has clear applications in the field of entertainment where stories are the main product or closely related to the experience. But storytelling can also be a useful tool in a much broader range of industries. By using storytelling in design research processes. Think of a story structure to design the flow of your experience, or of researching organisational stories to gather insights into the culture of an organisation. 

But let’s start off to try and give a broad understanding of the term storytelling.  The word consists of two parts that are equally important, story and telling. 

  • Stories are logically connected events that are experienced by characters. Their goal is to express and or evoke an emotion more, than just bringing across information. 

  • The telling refers to how you construct and or bring across these stories.  That can for instance be explicitly when you tell or write a story, but it can also be an experience your visitor/customer goes through. Or the staging of a situation in which your participant can imagine their own story. 

This video will delve deeper into the application techniques of storytelling in the design research process, specifically in the phase of experience design.  

Storytelling as an experience design tool 

In design research we often design workshops or interventions to explore a situation. Think of a customer journey mapping exercise; or filling in a trend canvas. Storytelling can be a tool to help design these, and other types of interventions. As mentioned before, stories focus on emotion and the experience of its characters. So, when we design an experience. What are the emotions you want your participants to feel? What experience do you want them to have? Can you construct the experience in such a way that you can try and influence their emotions or attitudes?    

With the help of different applications of storytelling you can. I will discuss three applications of storytelling as an experience design tool. 

  • The story structure of your experience
  • Setting the scene   
  • Prototyping 


Storytelling as a research tool 

Stories are a reflection of the past and present, and a compass for the future. Researching with a focus on stories is different than researching for facts. The past of a person or organization is often big and full of tiny events. Some events (and facts) are being told as part of the story and others are left out. In this way a person or organization can set a frame for a future also the simple question of “Tell me a story about when…” doesn’t ask for a factual account, it asks for the personal reflection of an event. And this can make all the difference.  

  • Stories as a research tool 
  • Persona 
  • The filtered truth 

Sandercock, l. (2003). Out of the Closet: The Importance of Stories and Storytelling in Planning Practice. planning theory and practice, 11-28. doi:10.1080/1464935032000057209