FAQ │ The Power of Storytelling: Connecting with Your Audience

7 min read • Dianne Eberhardt

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Dianne: Give personal experiences or real data or real examples to back up everything you're saying. And by showing those visually and speaking about them, that is going to make sure that you are having the most impact that you can.

Dianne: Hello everyone! Welcome to Pixelated Perfect. Today we have an FAQ session for you with me, like always. And today the topic is storytelling. So for context for everyone I recently had a speaking engagement with the ADP list at their product day. And it was inspiring and humbling <laugh> to come up with a story to tell about my experience going from working full-time as a graphic designer to going freelance and then ultimately starting and founding the design project. So I had a story in mind that I wanted to tell. I knew my story, but the telling of the story so that it really resonated with my audience. And my goal was really to make sure that I was telling, a story that people would get value out of, that they could resonate with, that they could learn something or take a tip or feel inspired by was what I was really looking to do.

Dianne: So I took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears like it was extremely challenging for me, but I feel like I landed in a great place and I'm really happy with the result. I got some good feedback. I felt like when I went into it, I really felt confident and I felt good about the story I was telling and the visuals I had to back up my story which led to, I feel like the audience really being able to kind of feel empathetic or relate in a way. So that was a really powerful moment for me and I wanted to talk a little bit about maybe some ideas behind it and kind of where it stems from. So I think the first kind of question we can talk about is why is storytelling important for designers. And I think one of the core reasons why it is important is because it helps designers to articulate their ideas very clearly in a framework that resonates with their target listener.

Dianne: It's able to kind of bring it to an emotional level, which I think is powerful, especially when you're communicating a design decision and why it's going to affect the end user. I think emotion is what drives a lot of people. So by making, creating a story around it that feels emotional is powerful and it's also just a better way to understand the users and communicate at that level showing empathy for a user. So how does understanding the target audience in their narratives contribute to effective storytelling and design? It shows that it's not just about the aesthetics or the functionality, it's about resonating with the target audience. And so if we wanna use this a d p talk the target audience was for the designers people that were looking to continue with their career, whether it was going full-time freelance, whether it was starting something new, whether it was becoming a founder.

Dianne: Those were the three targets I was really after. So I wanted to resonate with them. So I brought up a lot of personal stories and some of the struggles that I had and the things going through my mind because they probably were also going through people's minds who were currently in that stage of their careers. So I think resonating with the target audience is really, really important. The next kind of question is in what ways can designers collaborate with other disciplines such as copywriters or marketers to create cohesive and compelling stories through design? This is a great question. I feel like collaboration is key always. By bringing other people into the mix to hear the story, to have insights about the story that's going to lead to the best storytelling and the best decisions that you're making as a designer.

Dianne: So for this ADP list talk I showed it to many people. I presented it to many people before presenting it to the actual talk because I wanted to get feedback on what was working and what was not working. And so the people that I presented it to, I was like, Hey, in your honest opinion, what's working? What's not working? Did this resonate with you? What part of it didn't? And understanding all of the things around it. So I got a ton of a ton of feedback. It was really useful, and this is where I wanna talk about like the progression, the evolution of, of storytelling and specifically what I was working on in this presentation, the story that I told, I went into it, like I said, knowing my story and I basically just wrote out the whole thing and I was like, it's here.

Dianne: I did it. It's great. And then the first time I presented it to my husband, he basically, I got through like <laugh> maybe like two minutes of it and he's like, this is horrible. You're coming at it in a weird funny way that doesn't feel like you at all. It feels like it's very scripted. I don't wanna hear the rest. You should go back and rethink it. And so at that point, I was like, oh my gosh, this is gonna be so much harder than I thought. I did a second iteration. I was like, okay, I got it. And I presented it to my team, actually the team of designers. And I had like a couple of slides, I was starting to build out my slides and they were like, okay, it's okay, but I didn't know how to follow along with your story.

Dianne: Like I felt kind of lost at times. And so I was like, okay, failing again. I need to rewrite it and I also need to make sure I have visuals that can support my messages. So I don't wanna just repeat what I'm saying on a slide. I wanna like to allow, I want the user to listen to me, but I wanna have something that's going to pair with it effectively. And so an idea that my team brought up was like, why don't you have like a little roadmap? Why don't you show the progression and we can kind of follow along? Which was genius. And I used that and that ended up in my final presentation. I showed it to a few more people I think mostly outside of the design space. And let's just say I got feedback along every route and it took many, many, many tries.

Dianne: So one of the most important things I learned from that, which we do in design anyway, but for some reason I wasn't applying it to this instance, is like starting with a flow, a user flow, a wire frame, starting with just the concept before going too far. So, from the beginning, I wrote it out <laugh> like how I wanted to present it. And so I think that I wasted a lot of my time at every stage I was like, okay, I got it, now I'm gonna rewrite it versus like coming up with some changes, putting it out there before completely like writing the story. So that would be a piece of feedback I have for anyone that's looking to tell a story to get into storytelling is map it out first, <laugh>, get an understanding of it, put it in front of people, iterate on it instead of just starting from the beginning.

Dianne: So the next question is how can storytelling enhance the design process and help designers create more impactful experiences? I think this goes back to some of the things where you talked about empathizing. You can empathize and you can get personal, like give personal experiences or real data or real examples to back up everything you're saying. And by showing those visually and speaking about them, that is going to make sure that you are having the most impact that you can. I think another really important thing and this was something that as I got further along in my talk that I started to explore more was frameworks for how to tell a great story. So the one I ended up using was the Hero's Journey. And at first, I was like, I don't need a framework. I know how to tell a story.

Dianne: False. It was super helpful. And it's basically like where you started and then you kind of have like a couple of false starts of what was working, what didn't work, and kind of follow this journey. You can read more about the hero's journey. I highly suggested if you're trying to get into storytelling and it's this framework that's in most movies and pretty much everything that you Star Wars as the example, it's like Luke and Leia and trying to figure out like how to save the world <laugh> and kind of going through like, oh, they finally got saved Luke and then Han solo got frozen. So it is just like all these little ups and downs which are part of life and we all experience that and just being able to show that progression from start to finish is very relatable. So use a framework to help create that impactful emotional story.

Dianne: What are some practical techniques and frameworks that designers can use to incorporate? Like I said, here's the journey. I think a lot of examples are in writing frameworks and theater and movies and improv and I think the more you kind of study outside of maybe the traditional storytelling, you're gonna get a lot of really great frameworks and insights to use. And again, I think the other thing is making sure that your visuals are matching and not overpowering what you're saying. So they need to be on the level of not too much text, very simple, very clear with the end goal, and an end message. So I think that's also at the end making sure you're ending with something very impactful because most people are gonna remember the end, not the beginning, not the middle. I think it's the end, the beginning, and then the middle. So make sure you're ending with the main message you wanna communicate because that's what's gonna be a lasting impact. So those are my advice and my feedback and I'm also going to link to my talk if anyone is in a space where they wanna learn a little bit more or get some tips and tricks about how to kind of continue in your career in whatever way that makes sense to you. So thanks so much for listening and have a great day.

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