How can you turn your idea into a compelling story and inspire your audience? How can you influence decision-making through an effective presentation?
This write-up will help designers understand the framework behind great stories and apply them in their everyday pitches and presentations. Please note that the framework focuses mainly on creating the story and not on the delivery, which is another important part of storytelling.
<aside> 💡 To jump directly to the framework, please navigate to "The 4-step storytelling framework".
Human beings are born with an inherent nature to tell stories. If we look deeply, the ultimate goal of any form of communication humankind has developed is to tell a story. Books, paintings, films, news, apps, websites and even everyday conversations are just stories packaged in various media forms.
But why do we tell them? Why don’t we just show some information and leave it at that?
Why make the effort to tell a story? We think it is because stories are the only form of communication with the power to connect to another individual at an emotional level.
Stories are the only form of communication with the power to connect to another individual at an emotional level.
Stories are carriers of emotion, they can make you happy, make you cry, inspire you or even bore you. They directly connect with your emotions and emotions are motivators of change without actually creating change.
Stories are the keystone for human evolution and if we look closely, every leap of progress has a great story behind it. We are not sure if mankind would have evolved into what it is right now without stories.
One of the most impressive testaments we have read about stories is from Neil Gaiman. He explains the power of stories through the life of his cousin Helen, a 97 year old Holocaust survivor. Here it is:
“A few years ago, Helen started telling me this story of how, in the ghetto, they were not allowed books. If you had a book … the Nazis could put a gun to your head and pull the trigger — books were forbidden. And she used to teach under the pretense of having a sewing class… a class of about twenty little girls, and they would come in for about an hour a day, and she would teach them math, she’d teach them Polish, she’d teach them grammar… One day, somebody slipped her a Polish translation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind. And Helen stayed up — she blacked out her window so she could stay up an extra hour, she read a chapter of Gone with the Wind.
And when the girls came in the next day, instead of teaching them, she told them what happened in the book.
Illustration : Woman reading in the Nazi ghetto by Manivarma
And each night, she’d stay up; and each day, she’d tell them the story. And Gaiman asked, “Why? Why would you risk death — for a story?”