Reporting vs Storytelling in Design

Understanding the connection between story and design is one of my favorite (well, obsessive) activities, so I was all over John McWade’s recent Design Talk posting on this subject. McWade relates how the longevity of TV program 60 Minutes could be explained due to its founder’s guiding directive: “Tell me a story”. What does this have to do with design? EVERYTHING. He writes (emphasis mine):

You may say that you want your page/product/idea to “look good.” And, of course, looking good is preferable to looking bad. But what do you actually mean? What you should mean is that there’s a story to be told, and that your part is its visual expression. “Looking good” says blue and green go well together. The story is in what blue and green together say.

This is one of the most succinct write-ups I’ve seen on the topic, filled with quotable insights that you’ll want to post on your wall. And I think these ideas apply beyond visual design: pushing our thinking beyond ground-level “reporting and action” to the more stratospheric levels of “meaning and intent” gives us a more complete picture of the world with us living in it. And that understanding guides the tools in our hands so we can create fulfilling experiences that last beyond the fleeting first moments of surface attraction.

I think McWade neatly sums up the mechanics of creativity in this statement:

To leave the question unanswered is to begin a story. The reader’s engaged. He’ll look for what’s next. That’s what you want.

Check out the article. It’s a great read…so, so good.
» Tell me a Story on Before & After Magazine’s Design Talk blog.