“Design is not just the way a product or a website may look – design is the product in its entire form, and a big part of that is its story.”
I’ve always wanted to prove to the world that with enough hard work, strong dedication, and a little bit of patience – anyone can achieve anything they want to achieve.
It has been done and proven a thousand times before by those who are now our worlds most inspirational figures, and I want to be next. This is an ideal situation that many of us dream about, but unfortunately, not all of us get to live by. As far away as I may seem from this dream now, I have still not given up yet and am working very hard to make it happen. This being the case, I do tend to have doubts and often find myself asking – why?
Why do I care about this so much?
Why do I believe that this is my true purpose in life? Why? Why? Why?
To be honest, I don’t have the answers. I don’t have any answers, and I feel like I won’t have them for a long time to come. But I do know one thing. Regardless of what happens, the journey will be worth it – and deep down in my heart I know for a fact that at the end of the day, I will have a great story to tell.
Design is the same.
Design is story
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave the world a great story. I often find myself telling friends and friends of friends the story of how he once was fired from Apple, founded Pixar, founded NEXT, sold NEXT back to Apple, and then came back to the company he founded and changed everything. I feel like his story is my story.
Steve Jobs also gave us a different perspective on design.
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”
I believe this and hold it very close to my heart. Design is not just the way a product or a website may look – design is the product in its entire form, and a big part of that is its story.
I feel like most web designers today put too much emphasis on technical aspects – with hopes of keeping up to date with modern trends and culture. This is very fine, but when it becomes a main focus, it can kill off a big part of what a websites true identity should be.
Instead, I believe that a web designer should focus more on a projects origin – what is the backstory? If there is no backstory, then create one. Add these elements to the design as subtle little details. Think about why a website should end up a certain way, and how you can re-use and incorporate elements of the story into this.
If this is the focus, I am sure that without even realizing it, our designs will be unique and speak volumes in the right direction – as opposed to most websites out there today.
How it helps
From my little experience, I have found that there are two main reasons why focusing on storytelling in design can help to make your work stand out.
Gives your design purpose:
No story is without a purpose. No great story is without a great purpose. And depending on what the story is, there will always be people out there who are going through the same thing. Make your story universal, and your site will be universal.
Give your design purpose and a great story can be told. It’s up to you to figure out what that is though.
In this case, people will be able to relate to your design – which brings me to my next point.
A unique bond:
A strong purpose will also allow you to create a unique bond between yourself, your design, and those who view your work.
Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ is a great example of this. The song is beautiful, personal, and one that most everyone can relate to. It is a story about love. By relating to her song, we are creating a unique bond between the artist and ourselves. We feel close to her, and hence, listen to her music more.
Good design should be the same. It should be beautifully crafted, personal, and universal enough for people to relate – and the only way to do that is to incorporate storytelling.
Storytelling elements in design are difficult because they are not as direct as can be done with music or video. It is more mysterious. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when done right it can work to your advantage in such a great way. There is no better way to keep your viewers guessing and digging deeper – wanting to know more.
It’s the little details that make the biggest difference.
I would say that a good way to help incorporate story into your designs is by adding character. People are normally very fascinated by interesting characters and will often go out of their way to discover more.
Obviously, adding character to a sites design is no easy task, and really does depend on your creativity – but a good way to do this is by including a site mascot. A big part of this is branding, but it will most definitely contribute to the storytelling aspect.
What’s your story?
Just like Steve Jobs, everybody has a story to tell. A story that is unique and their own. A story that we can all relate to.
And as such, I really do believe that every great designer out there should without a doubt be telling their story throughout their work. And when this can be done – well, that my friends is when the magic truly happens.
So, what’s your story?