Narration

A series of blog posts created in the "design methodologies" module at ZHdK, teached by Dr. Joëlle Bitton.

Today’s presentations from Mathias Thomsen and Kimon Apeltsotou and the week’s literature were dedicated to the topic of narration and it’s value in regards to design. This time I won’t focus on summarising contents of the literature but more on thoughts and ideas that sticked to me.

The text of Auger et al. “Demo or die” followed by a discussion in class, really supported my assumption of presenting and sharing one’s design ideas/process as being a central key element of a design’s success. Throughout the first semester of my studies at ZHdK I quickly realised the great importance of presenting and marketing one’s ideas. Your Idea may be a game changer but if the people can’t / aren’t able to understand your idea, it’s worth nothing. So Joëlle mentioned the idea of publish or perish - which means that if you’re not constantly sharing your process and ideas, you basically don’t exist. Especially for students like us, this is of high importance regarding the financial aspect of our projects. We really depend on good presentations and narrations of our designs to bring them alive somehow. I think today’s discussion made me realise again how powerful the tool of narration truly is.
According to that I really liked how Mathias also mentioned the idea of stories serving as bridges. In reference to my blogpost of Experience and it’s importance to design, I think a story may be the most appropriate lo-fi form of enabling a user to somehow experience a not yet accessible design. Therefor a narration can really serve as a prototype and thus as an evaluation tool for designers. But there are many other different purposes a story can serve for, which is making it an enormously powerful tool for creators. To name only a few more:

  • Helping ideation
  • Discussing, explaining
  • Evaluation of a concept
  • Proof of a concept
  • Success/failure
  • Gain funding: kickstarter, etc..
  • Open imagination, reinventing objects, tools..

Another aspect of stories I’d like to point out is their ability to manipulate people. We’ve seen it in history a lot of times, where the linguistically well-versed were able to gain immense power through words. This is something we should definitely keep in mind for future projects, as we can gain a lot from this tool. On the other side it comes with a lot of responsibility, as Joëlle mentioned. A story can make failure into a success but it may turn a success into a failure as well!

But the success of an idea is not only about the narration itself, which leads me to the contents of Laurel et al.’s text on “Design Research”. They propose considering 4 levels of decision influences when it comes to present and market ideas:

  • Strategy
  • Project must fit business priorities
  • Politics
  • Political interest constellations of the players involved
  • Culture
  • Culture of the organisation and cherished traditions
  • Emotions
  • Emotional reactions of the players => Integrate them

I think it’s important to not only think within a system while ideating a design, but to also do this for realising it. One really has to be aware of the players in power regarding the realisation of a project, but also of all the other circumstances that influences a project’s outcome.

Finally I think key for revealing and getting conscious about these interdependencies is to communicate a lot and to do it respectfully and deliberately but also honestly and empathetically and to always stay curious and trying to understand how things work. That way one will be able to understand the needs of each decision-influencing level and also keep oneself integrated in the social network, enabling oneself to work with the system and not for it.

Readings

Auger, James. 2012. “Demo or die: Overcoming oddness through aesthetic experience”. In Why Robot? Speculative Design, the domestication of technology and the considered future. PhD Thesis. RCA, London.

Hertz, G. & Parikka, J. 2012. “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method”. In Leonardo. 45:5. 424–430.

Ishii, Hiroshi & Ullmer B. 1997. “Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms”. In Proceedings of CHI ‘97.

Ishii, Hiroshi, Lakatos, D., Bonanni, L. & Labrune, J. “Radical Atoms: Beyond Tangible Bits,Toward Transformable Materials”. In Interactions. 19:1. January/ February 2012. 38-51.

Kim, J., Lund, A. & Dombrowski. 2010. “Mobilizing Attention: Storytelling for Innovation”. In Interactions.

Loch, Christopher. 2003. Moving Your Idea Through Your Organisation. In Laurel, Brenda (ed.). Design Research. Methods and Perspectives.

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