Design is Storytelling

Sketchnote created by Ellen Lupton

“Good design, like good storytelling, brings ideas to life.” This was Ellen Lupton’s premise throughout her lively presentation at the National Design Thinking Workshop for teachers. Ellen is an author, educator, designer and Senior Curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Currently she is working on a book titled “Design is Storytelling.”

Ellen engaged our teachers in a visual journey through the narratives of designed objects, brands, images and systems. She shared how designers in today’s cross-disciplinary, multimedia world use a narrative structure (diagram below) to enhance the user experience in emotionally fulfilling ways.

PlotmountainDesigners can employ ideas about behaviour, perception, and humour to develop empathy and build a narrative with impact.

Ellen’s examples were many and varied, from trash can design to the user experience in McDonalds. The usefulness of creating persona’s and scenarios to help students understand the end user and develop empathy was also explored.

As I reflected on Ellen’s presentation I thought about the importance of teaching our students metacognitive skills. So often we passively experience the objects, advertisements and various purposeful narratives around us without questioning the impact, manipulation or pure genius of our experiences. By helping students to question, observe, break down and evaluate they are better able to create powerful narratives of their own.

I’m really looking forward to reading Ellen’s book “Design is Storytelling,” when it is published later this year.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s