The exercise, run as a workshop to teach the basic elements of design thinking, also introduces participants to the insight that the challenge isn’t always what it seems. That’s to say, participants realize about a third of the way through the exercise, that they are designing around a user’s needs, which may have nothing to do with an object — the wallet — at all. In fact, given the trends in technology, the physical wallet is likely to play an ever smaller role in our lives.
I decided to try and re-make the design project, swapping out the wallet for the story experience. I dove into the worksheet to see what I could begin doing with words and layout. The following questions started to arise:
- What purpose does a story serve?
- What are the various types of story experiences one could encounter?
- Do people need stories? Why?
While considering these questions, I found myself reading the following articles and thought pieces on the nature of the story:
In a New Yorker piece titled “Can Science Explain Why We Tell Stories,” Adam Gopnik writes:
"Stories, more even than stars or spectacle, are still the currency of life, or commercial entertainment, and look likely to last longer than the euro. There’s no escaping stories, or the pressures to tell them.”
In a piece for Nieman Reports, Jacqui Banaszynski writes that stories are “our prayers”, “history”, “our conscience” and “our soul”.
Meanwhile Leo Widrich while outlining the effects stories have on our brains, writes:
"A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation."
Meanwhile, Tim Parks writes for The New York Review of Books blog:
"Like God, the self requires a story; it is the account of how each of us accrues and sheds attributes over seventy or eighty years—youth, vigor, job, spouse, success, failure—while remaining, at some deep level, myself, my soul."
So, I think there are few people who would disagree with this: stories play a critical role in our lives. But does the story make a good replacement as the object at the center of a design challenge? That’s what I seek to test with this prototype of an introductory design project (emphasis on the word prototype). I am making the first three pages available, since they are the only ones on which I made edits. The remaining pages from the underlying wallet DP0 are unchanged. So, the pivot here isn’t major other than the prompt. But I am curious to see if the impact of the experience is greater, lesser or the same relative to the wallet.
If you wish to try this exercise, please (please!) send me your feedback. What comes to mind? What works, what doesn’t, and why? If you need the remaining pages for the wallet DP0, they are here.
Okay, here's the cover. Even as I look at it, I wonder if it projects too much in offering a story lead-in. Would love to know your thoughts:
Below is the first page following the cover sheet. Rather than merely pivot from "wallet" to "story", I decided to root it around the storytelling experience. Yes, that makes this more in-line with the breakfast experience, but I think it makes the challenge a bit more concrete. For example, we've all told a story at some point or had one told to us. I'm eager to see if this evokes types of media (print, web, audio, video, etc.), settings (campfire, bedtime, theater, casual conversation, etc.) and styles (jokes, monologues, long-form, short-form, poetry, etc.).
Here's what I am most interested in testing. What do people need when it comes to a storytelling experience? Who do they need to be with (if anyone), what do they need to hear? Where do they need to be? I have my assumptions on how this may go, but am eager to test.
So, I am going to try and find some folks here to test this with and see if it works! Also, remember, these sheets are prototypes. This is basically me trying out an idea. It's not meant to be a formal exercise, thus the big, red "prototype" stamp. If you do work with it, please do let me know. Your feedback on this kind of post as part of the whiteboard is also welcome.