Storytelling and the User Experience

User Experience designers come in all shapes and sizes,

from all sorts of backgrounds – from developers, to marketing analytics specialists, to graphic designers.  But there is one breed that I find intriguing, because the background is typically seen as disconnected by employers, however since I belong to that breed, I can tell you it’s not surprising that we end up here in the least.  We are the storytellers – illustrators, film-makers, or creative directors who end up finding a passion and strength in user experience design.

What does Storytelling and User Experience design have in common?

Visual storytellers are versed in understanding how to bring a person on a journey, and communicating information over a period of time.  Sequential imagery, pacing, and timelines (including animation) are familiar principles of our craft. But at the root, we study how to communicate complicated information and stories to a variety of audiences in ways that are informative, exciting, and entertaining.

UX design is tied directly to analytics, testing, and reporting, which are all methods to understand the audience and their behavior.  Illustrators, Film Makers and Creative Directors use similar types of data and research to understand their audiences before embarking on any major project.  For example, if an illustrator is assigned a fully-illustrated story about a brave rabbit in the woods, the style, tone, and overall aesthetic execution would vary dramatically from an audience of 2-3 year olds to an audience of 10 year olds who were interested in Spiderman and Batman.

What draws storytellers to UX design?

This may be strictly my own opinion, but we are visual communicators – storytellers – who are passionate about the power of design, aesthetic, pacing, and interactions with our audience.  We love to speak with our audiences on an intimate level, creating experiences that are helpful, insightful, and enjoyable.  So many aspects of the process are familiar to us, so the shift from one area of expertise to the next is natural.  From storyboarding, sketching wireframes (keyframes), to creating user flows (the character’s journey map) – with every project, we are the authors of a choose-your-own adventure interactive novel, built upon statistical data and analysis in order to make the adventure seamless, intuitive, and memorable.